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Government, Politics & Issues

A year later, Confederate Memorial remains in Forest Park

Runners pass the Confederate Monument in Forest Park.
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI
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The memorial to Confederate war dead, pictured here in 2015, remains in Forest Park a year after Mayor Francis Slay said he wanted it removed from the park.

On Christmas Eve last year, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay used what is traditionally a quiet period for news to announce that he wanted a 102-year-old monument to Confederate war dead removed from Forest Park.

A year later, the statue remains in place. But city officials say they are committed to fulfilling the mayor's promise.

"The Confederate monument is a celebration of and a justification for slavery that is part of our history and something we should not forget," said Eddie Roth, the city's human services director. "But it is not the kind of thing that we should be celebrating in our most exalted public space."

Slay put together a committee to study the statute's removal from Forest Park in June 2015. Since none of the local institutions that responded to the committee were willing to display the monument, Roth looked at other options, including the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, in Republic, Mo., just south of Springfield.

"It's actually the place where Gen. [Nathaniel] Lyons, who had been the commander of the St. Louis armory, was a Union casualty," Roth said. "It has a St. Louis connection, and it was the first major battle west of the Mississippi. We think it would be an ideal place for the National Park Service to use its talents in being able to frame and interpret and make accessible to all people our history."

A National Park Service official wrote back that commemorative works can only be approved by an act of Congress. Roth said President Barack Obama could accept the monument by a proclamation, and hopes the president will act before he leaves office.

But even if the president doesn't, Roth said, the statue will be out of Forest Park by the time Slay leaves office in April. Roth also said he's found a way to cut the estimated $130,000 price tag in half — literally temporarily bury history.

"City staff, with some outside assistance, could excavate a hole near where the monument is currently situated, put timbers down in the hole, and essentially cover it up with soil," he said. "The granite would be no less worse for wear."

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

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