St. Louis County Council members will meet Tuesday evening to discuss the 2012 proposed county budget, which calls for eliminating 146 park jobs and 23 county parks, including local ones, such as , and parks. Leaders of St. Louis-based The Open Space Council invite citizens to voice concerns about the matter at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at a Rally to Save the Parks in front of the St. Louis County Government Building, 41 S. Central Avenue in Clayton.
“Selling parkland is not the answer to budget shortfalls. Loss of parks means a significantly lower quality of life for all St. Louis residents,” said Brittany Barton, project manager for The Open Space Council.
Barton said it has been suggested the county's parklands would be sold to the highest bidders. "Selling parkland is an irreversible act, and the Open Space Council is working to ensure that all land remains intact," she said.
and online coalitions quickly were formed by concerned citizens and organizations when the proposed budget was released to the public by county executives on Nov. 1. Eureka-Wildwood Patch received two letters to the editor this month about the issue:
Barton said a Passive Use Study commissioned by St. Louis County in 2008 showed 15 million people used the county park system, including historic sites. The Open Space Council is just one of many organizations planning to make a statement to the St. Louis County Council members Tuesday night, she said.
Rally attendees are asked to wear green, and Barton said Open Space Council will provide rally signs until they run out.
A regular County Council meeting will be conducted Tuesday at 6 p.m. A public hearing about the budget begins at 6:30 p.m., or as soon after the regular meeting as possible; every attendee will have the opportunity to speak at the hearing from 2 minutes to 4 minutes. Comments also can be emailed to the county's administrative director at firstname.lastname@example.org or can be called in to 314-615-5440.
Are plans to sell county parks shifting?
, St. Louis County Executive Director Charlie Dooley then indicated the county would not be selling parkland, but needed other solutions for the budget deficit.
“It is my hope that as we move forward, the county council and I come up with some alternatives to make something work,” he said. “The parks are not going anywhere; we’re not going to sell any parks. They’re going to stay in St. Louis County.”
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Editor's Note: The Open Space Council is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving public and private open space lands in the St. Louis region. Its managers identify areas that can be acquired and set aside for public use, and attempts to discourage improper land use and detrimental development. The organization's members encourage biodiversity through land and water conservation, preservation and restoration. The Open Space Council volunteers and staffers, through the group's Operation Clean Stream project, has been working for more than 44 years to restore and protect the Lower Meramec River Greenway.