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Deal In Place To Fund Upgrades To Forest Park

(via Flickr/ChrisYunker)
Another delay on a bond issue for the city's parks could put a $25 million donation to Forest Park, pictured here, in jeopardy.

Visitors to Forest Park can expect to see some upgrades over the next five years, thanks to an agreement signed Friday between the city of St. Louis and Forest Park Forever.

Under the deal, which is the latest piece of a puzzle that began in the summer of 2010,  Forest Park Forever will raise $30 million in private dollars to purchase bonds from the city. Those bonds will fund the next set of projects in the Forest Park Forever master plan, which was developed in 1995. The city will then pay the agency back using tax revenue and funds raised inside the park.

"This is a great way to make sure there is money available to take care of these projects in the future," said Forest Park Forever executive director Lesley Hoffarth. She said an effort to find a way to maintain the park began after work was finished on a 10-year, $100-million reconstruction.

The current projects will eventually include a new playground and an upgrade of Central Fields. But Hoffarth says the agency will focus first on year-round bathrooms and drinking fountains - frequent requests from users.

"The biggest complaint we get is signage - getting people around the roads and the path system, and entrances into the park so you know you're here," she said. "You'll see signage start going into the ground after the first of the year." Work on the bathrooms and drinking fountains will begin later this summer.

Hoffarth says fundraising remains on target.

There's no word on the city may issue a second set of bonds designed to fund repairs and upgrades at the city’s 106 other parks.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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