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Wellston’s Trojan Park Demonstrates The Power Of Parks In A Community

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Provided by Great Rivers Greenway
Wellston's Trojan Park was recently honored with the Urban Land Institute's Urban Open Space Award.

Four years ago, a host of parks enthusiasts descended on Wellston. The National Recreation and Park Association was holding its annual conference in St. Louis, and with it came the organization’s Parks Build Community project — an initiative that deploys the association’s resources and corporate donations in service of building a new park or renovating an existing one to demonstrate the “transformative value of parks and recreation.”

The result was Trojan Park, a new one-acre park located on the St. Vincent Greenway. The park was truly a collaborative effort. Great Rivers Greenway secured and donated the land, and also worked to gather community input with the nonprofit Beyond Housing. The Municipal Park Grant Commission of St. Louis County provided $315,000 in funding, and St. Louis County and Wellston committed to maintaining it. Then the National Recreation and Park Association and its partners built the park from scratch — complete with two top-notch playgrounds, a basketball court and plenty of places for sitting or picnicking.

The park has quickly become a community favorite, and it’s not just Wellston residents who approve. The Urban Land Institute named Trojan Park one of two winners of this year’s Urban Open Space Award, which honors “outstanding examples of vibrant public open spaces that have been instrumental in promoting healthy, sustainable, and equitable outcomes in communities.”

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Nancy Winkelmann | Provided by Great Rivers Greenway
Trojan Park was the result of an unusual collaboration involving both local entities and the National Recreation and Park Association.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Chip Crawford, managing director of the Lamar Johnson Collaborative, discussed the park’s inception — and also explained just how big a deal its Urban Open Space Award is.

“It’s hard to even imagine that this little park would win an award like this,” he said. “First off, it’s international. There were 50 to 60 submittals all the way from Moscow to Hong Kong, so it’s a huge geographic reach of parks you’re competing with. Also it’s a lot of super-funded parks, parks that might be hundreds of millions of dollars. And this one was $2 million. It’s really fighting over its weight. And I couldn’t be more proud and happy for the people of Wellston and everyone who spent time and contributed to the outcome here.”

As part of the conversation with Crawford, we also heard from Trojan Park patrons and discussed listeners’ go-to parks, as well as their choices for hidden gems throughout the metro area.

As Crawford explained, the region has no shortage of excellent parks. In fact, the Trust for Public Land ranks St. Louis 13th in the nation for its parks, with a score that assesses acreage, investment, amenities and access. According to the Trust for Public Land’s St. Louis park score, 98% of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.

“We’re really fortunate,” he said. “We’re actually in a pretty good place. I think the quality and character of each of the parks in each of the neighborhoods varies a little bit and could use some work. But overall, we’re in pretty good shape that way. And [Great Rivers Greenway] connecting these parks with greenways adds a whole other kind of experience.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Sarah Fenske joined St. Louis Public Radio as host of St. Louis on the Air in July 2019. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

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