The next round of renovations for the Gateway Arch grounds has begun. On Thursday, representatives from the National Park Service, the City of St. Louis and other supporting organizations were on hand for the groundbreaking.
CityArchRiver 2015 renovations are geared toward making the grounds more accessible and enjoyable for all visitors.
“The rehabilitation project for the memorial landscape will replace the aged vegetation, render the processional pathways universally accessible, increase the environmental sustainability of the landscape, and create a stronger connection to downtown St. Louis,” Stephanie Toothman, the National Park Service Associate Director for Cultural Resources and Science said.
These improvements will include new ramps from the riverfront to the Arch grounds, renovating the reflecting ponds, upgraded lighting, and adding conveniences for visitors such as bike racks, drinking fountains and benches.
A link between the grounds and a seven-mile biking and walking path that will frame the park perimeter is also being constructed.
Rehabilitation of the landscaping is also part of these renovations. Tom Bradley, the Superintendent of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, said the trees on the grounds need to be replaced because the original trees were planted cheaply and quickly.
“Today we know so much more about planting trees and having good soils, engineered soils, good irrigation. So the tree pits will be bigger and the trees themselves will probably be more robust,” Bradley said.
Construction will continue over the course of the next few years, and there will even be a time when the museum is closed, but the Arch continues to attract visitors despite the construction.
Bradley said the plan is to keep the park open at all times – even if it becomes a challenge.
“We’re already well into construction,” Bradley said. “It is kind of surprising how little impact we have had on our numbers. We thought we would be running 20, 30 percent down already, but we’re not.”
Renovations outside of the Arch grounds also continue. Bradley said the Park over the Highway is on schedule, and construction on the Old Courthouse, which will include improvements to its overall accessibility and new exhibits, should begin soon.
The next step of the Arch grounds update is the museum, which Bradley considers “the single most exciting aspect” of the project.
This round of renovations covers nearly 50 acres and will cost over $27 million. All renovations are currently on schedule to be completed by 2017.
For an updated layout of the construction plan with expected completion dates, visit the CityArchRiver website.