Camping tent
Arup Malakar |Flickr|

When climber Scott Briscoe was in high school, he got involved with the genre of physical activity known as “adventure sports.” You know:  hiking, skiing, backpacking, kayaking, rock climbing, and the like. He loved these kinds of sports, but there was something missing from the experience — people who looked like him.

Image from Forever: The Campaign for Forest Park's Future
Provided by Michael Eastman and Forest Park Forever

Forest Park Forever is celebrating its 30th anniversary by giving three artists $3,000 each.

The money is a stipend for three, three-week-long residencies in the park from May to September. Stephen Schenkenberg, the organization’s strategic communications director, says the project’s intended to answer the question:

“How can we celebrate in a way that the community ultimately gets something new, someone’s new interpretation or expression of what the park means?”

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Legislation is being considered in the Missouri House that would block the Nixon administration from creating a new state park in the southern part of the state.

Two bills heard Monday by a House committee would force the Department of Natural Resources to sell any land set aside for the new park that was purchased using funds from lead mining settlements.

Organizer Leon Braxton at the site of the Transgender Memorial Park.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

A sliver of land in St. Louis’ Grove neighborhood is getting a makeover to become what may the country’s first Transgender Memorial Park.

It’s a cooperative effort between the city and community members. Leon Braxton got the idea when he heard about the city’s “Plant4Peace” project, a program that gives out free trees for local gathering spaces.

“I thought about this would be a great opportunity for something in the LGBT community,” Braxton said.

This week marks the end of construction on Laumeier Sculpture Park’s fine arts center. According to park Executive Director Marilu Knode, the entire building was designed to bridge the gap between future indoor exhibits and its already established outdoor collection.

“You know we’re an outdoor park, we don’t need a fancy building we need something that’s like a barn!” she said.

Beating the heat
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Outdoor pools have become a politically charged subject in the wake of a white police officer’s treatment of black teens in McKinney, Texas. This weekend, the city of St. Louis' largest outdoor public pool reopened after being closed for over a year.  In a year marked by racial tension throughout the city, many people in attendance at the Marquette Park pool characterized the event as a step in the right direction.

Katelyn Petrin / St. Louis Public Radio

As the weather gets warmer this month, St. Louis gains two more places to enjoy springtime outdoors. St. Charles County is cutting the ribbon of a new park on Monday, while St. Louis County debuted a new park last week.

Old North
Emanuele Berry | St. Louis Public Radio

Torn up nets, fading court lines, unkempt baseball fields, smashed slides, broken pavement, crumbling swing sets and a clogged sprinkler filled with trash and dead animals … these are just some of the problems facing a pair of parks in the Old North neighborhood of St. Louis. Problems area children are campaigning to fix. 

The Youth Council of Old North held a meeting Tuesday evening to campaign for the city to fix Strodtman and Jackson parks. The council, which is made up of young men from the neighborhood, was established this fall.

Linda Lockhart | St. Louis Public Radio

The Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park, Missouri’s original, natural water park, is ready for action. That’s what Steph Deidrick, a division information officer for the Missouri State Parks, wants people to know.

It’s been four years since Johnson’s Shut-ins reopened the park and campgrounds after the area was hit by a devastating flood, caused when AmerernUE’s Taum Sauk reservoir gave way.  The reservoir breach occurred on Dec. 14, 2005, sending approximately 1.3 billion gallons of water down the Proffit Mountain, flooding the park below.

(via Flickr/Indofunk Satish)

Isaac dumps rain, but Mo. drought persists

The National Weather Service says large parts of rural Missouri and Illinois had between three-to-five inches of rainfall this weekend.

In St. Louis, Oakville received three and a half inches of rain, the most in the metropolitan area.  But National Weather Service Meteorologist Jayson Gosselin said it will take much more rain to snap this summer's historic drought.

Wallula Junction / Flickr

Since late last year, almost a quarter of Illinois state park superintendents have retired, taking with them in many cases 30 or more years of experience that will be hard to replace.
The loss of that institutional knowledge is one more cost of the state's deep financial crisis. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is among state agencies hit hard by years of budget cuts.

(via Flickr/Trailnet)

The St. Louis County Parks Department presented its business plan to the County Council last night, and for now, no park closures are being discussed. 

Officials with the parks department said they’re doing their best to cut unnecessary expenses and uncover new revenue streams, but currently the department has a $500,000 budget shortfall for 2013.

The budget outlook could get much worse in 2014, and Parks Department Director Tom Ott said they would need to make drastic cuts without adequate funding.

Mo. Dept. of Natural Resources

People who go camping at state parks in Missouri can now add laptops and iPads to their lists of camping gear and supplies.

Prior to this year, only Bennett Spring State Park had WiFi service, which was used mainly for live trout cameras during trout season.  Renee Bungart with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says WiFi service has now been expanded to eleven state park campgrounds.

(via Flickr/IndofunkSatish)

Ill. DNR director cannot rule out park closures

Amanda Vinicky contributed reporting from Springfield.

The director of the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources says his department will do all it can to keep the state's parks open after the failure of a $2 increase in license plate fees that would have provided a funding stream the the DNR.

But Marc Miller says he can't rule anything out, because the department has seen its budget slashed by 50 percent over the last decade.

(via Flickr/IndofunkSatish)

County parks audit finds spending on vehicles during budget crisis

An internal audit of the St. Louis County Parks Department has found the department spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on new vehicles, even as county executive Charlie Dooley was threatening to close parks and lay off employees.

(via Flickr/rjones0856)

State Auditor Tom Schweich has given the agency that oversees Missouri's state parks low marks for its documentation and oversight procedures.

The Division of State Parks, within the Department of Natural Resources, oversees the state's 85 parks and historical sites. The sites bring in about $9 million annually, with about $1.7 million coming from 16 companies that provide food, lodging and other concessions at some of the parks. The division also administers the state parks sales tax, which totals about $38 million a year.

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Child abusers could face tougher penalties under Mo. legislation

People who injure or kill a baby by shaking the child could face tougher penalties under legislation moving through the Missouri House. The House has endorsed a measure expanding Missouri's child abuse law to specifically cover causing a baby's death or injury by shaking.

Flickr/Jason Dunnivant

Ill. Gov to propose closing 14 major facilities in budget address

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's administration says the cuts and consolidations will result in more than 1,100 layoffs.

The cuts come in all sizes. At the large end is Tamms Correctional Center, a southern Illinois prison that houses about 400 inmates  -- which is just over half of capacity.

Forest Park Forever president and executive director Lesley Hoffarth said public input will help guide future changes and upgrades at the city's most well-known green space.
(via Flickr/pasa47)

Good morning! Here are some of today's starting headlines:

Slay authorizes $64 million in bonds for St. Louis parks

Funding for St. Louis City parks will no longer be siphoned into other capital improvement projects, following a bill signing by Mayor Francis Slay Monday night.

(via Flickr/Trailnet)

Members of the St. Louis County Council have reached a budget deal that avoids the closure of 23 county parks.

The two sides announced the compromise at a County Council meeting Tuesday night. The new 2012 budget keeps open all 50 of the county parks, and reduces the number of job cuts from 173 to about 40. It also maintains plowing in unincorporated areas that receive less than two inches of snow.

(via Flickr/pasa47)

After 18 months of work behind the scenes, a three-week delay, and two hours of debate that covered topics from roller skating to Robert Frost, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen has sent a $64 million bond issue for the city's parks to Mayor Francis Slay.

(via Google Maps screen capture)

Don't panic if you see a fire in Forest Park tomorrow afternoon.

Weather permitting, Forest Park Forever, and the city's parks and fire departments will conduct a 14-acre controlled burn in the Deer Lake Natural Area, near the Union Ave. entrance to the park.

(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)

Governor Jay Nixon (D) is defending his decision to explore the possibility of the state jointly running several county parks in St. Louis County that are being targeted for closure.

The parks in question include Lone Elk Park in West County, home to wild elk, turkey, deer and buffalo.  State Senator Jim Lembke (R, Lemay) is questioning whether the governor has the authority to enter into such an agreement.

(St. Louis County website)

Gov. Jay Nixon says his administration has begun discussions with St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley in hopes of helping to keep open some county parks slated for closure.

(via St. Louis County website)

St. Louis County Council members gather tonight at 6:00 p.m. to discuss County Executive Charlie Dooley’s proposed budget for 2012.  Facing flat revenues and a budget shortfall, Dooley has proposed $10 million in spending cuts that would close 23 county parks and eliminate up to 133 Parks & Recreation Department employees.

The budget has been under fire from council members, citizens, and environmental groups, many of whom are calling for more equitable cuts across county departments.

Former County Park Ranger Marty Koch joined Dooley’s Senior Policy Advisor Mike Jones today on St. Louis on the Air.

(via Flickr/ChrisYunker)

A $25 million donation to Forest Park may be in jeopardy if the St. Louis Board of Aldermen cannot approve a bond issue for parks improvement by the end of the year.

The two bond issues - one for Forest Park, another for the city's 100+ other parks - stalled again Thursday at the Board of Aldermen.

The bills would work in the following way:

(Screen capture via YouTube user mbost89)

Severe Weather and Tornadoes Hit Missouri...Again

Storms capable of producing tornadoes pounded parts of the state Wednesday afternoon.

In Sedalia, Mo., a tornado destroyed dozens of mobile homes and heavily damaged several businesses along one of the city's main highways. No one was killed and only 15-to-25 minor injuries were reported.

Acting Police Chief Larry Ward says despite all the damage, it feels like Sedalia dodged a bullet.