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Forest Park bridge project begins Tuesday near Boathouse and Muny

Replacement of the Liberal Arts Bridge was one of the projects funded by "Forever: The Campaign for Forest Park's Future."
Forest Park Forever
Before and after: Architectural rendering, right, shows new bridge and waterway enhancements that will replace the old Liberal Arts Bridge, left.

A $3.1 million project in Forest Park begins Tuesday with the demolition of a bridge that connects Government Drive to Pagoda Circle, requiring visitors to find a detour through the park until construction is completed.  

The Liberal Arts Bridge is one of the last of the bridges in the park slated for replacement, said Lesley Hoffarth, president of Forest Park Forever. The site is between the Boathouse and The Muny.

“It’s a really great project that delivers two big wins for Forest Park and its visitors,’’ she said. “It creates this really beautiful new natural destination in an area that now is mainly used as a pass-through for cars. And it’s really an eyesore of a bridge that’s going to be replaced with a safer, more attractive bridge with improved sidewalks and a new connection to our popular recreation paths.’’

A goal of the project is to make the area more visitor-friendly with the addition of a stepping-stone bridge over the waterway and large boulders along the banks where people can sit or picnic.

Park officials waited until after the busy summer season to begin the project, Hoffarth said.

“Navigating is always tough in the park, isn’t it? And it will be a little bit tougher with this bridge closing, but we do really appreciate everyone’s patience as this work gets underway,’’ she said. “It’s tough to find a good time to do major projects in Forest Park with the 13 million visitors that we have. Most of them are here in the summer, and then spring and fall are both pretty busy, as well.’’

The new bridge will have an archway and is designed to look like other bridges in the park. It will be opened as soon as it is completed, sometime before spring, while other work at the site will continue through the spring, she said.

To reach the Boathouse during construction, Hoffarth suggested entering Government Drive from Washington, Fine Arts, or Wells drives. Or, park in the southwest corner of the Visitors Center parking lot and take the bicycle path to the Boathouse, about a three-minute walk.

The project is being funded by Forest Park Forever’s $130 million capital campaign. The organization is a private, nonprofit conservancy that works with the city of St. Louis and its parks and recreation division to restore and sustain the 1,300-acre park.

Follow Mary Delach Leonard on Twitter: @marydleonard

Credit Forest Park Forever

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

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