More than 70 St. Louis area residents and environmentalists gathered in front of the St. Louis County Administrative Building on Tuesday to protest a proposal to build a 250,000-square-foot ice recreation complex in Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park.
Holding signs that included pictures of local birds pasted on paper plates, local residents said they are concerned that the St. Louis Ice Center project could dramatically alter the appearance of the park. Environmentalists also fear that the facility of three indoor rinks and one outdoor rink could increase flooding. The site is on a floodplain that has experienced a couple of major floods in the last two years.
"We're not opposed to [the ice center]," said Kat Dockery, executive director of the Open Space Council for the St. Louis region. "We think it could be really great at the Mills Mall or at Jamestown Mall or anywhere else that needs redevelopment. But don't take our public parkland, the place where we go to recreate, the place we go for peace and quiet. Leave that for the people."
While the ice complex would take up a small percentage of the park's more than 2,100 acres, residents said the change would be felt throughout the entire space.
"I think the worst part of putting a multi-story building there it's really flat," said Becky Yeater, of Maryland Heights. "It's going to be visible from pretty much everything."
The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and the St. Louis Legacy Ice Foundation are behind the proposed ice recreation facility, which could cost more than $50 million and would serve as the new practice space for the St. Louis Blues.
"I don't think that [the ice center] will dramatically alter [the park] at all. I think it's a real enhancement to the park," said Sheila Sweeney, chief executive officer of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership.
Sweeney added that Great Rivers Greenway is adding a trail to the park and work is being done to improve storm water drainage. A draft environmental assessment of the proposed facility was released in June.
The county recently began grading the site, which drew criticism from local environmentalists who say that grading shouldn't be allowed until the site has been approved for development. The National Park Service has to approve the St. Louis County's request to build the ice complex, since the agency's Land and Water Conservation Fund restricts use of Creve Coeur Lake Park to conservation and public recreation.
Charvonne Long, who grew up playing in Creve Coeur Lake Park, said she would be disappointed to see the project built in an area that she hopes to someday bring her children.
"Putting an ice rink where it doesn't make any sense, you're pushing families out and you're making them venture out further to experience something so natural and something so beautiful," she said.
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