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Lone Elk Park, Greensfelder Park and West County Tyson Park Among Those County May Close

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley proposes closing 19 parks and St. Vincent Community Center (highlighted on accompanying map) to cut $10 million from 2012 budget. Three local parks are among those sites targeted.

To eliminate a $10 million budget shortfall, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley included closing 19 county parks and a community center in his 2012 proposed budget presented Monday. in Eureka, Lone Elk Park outside of Eureka on Interstate 44, as well as in Wildwood, are three of the designated targets.

(See previously published blog in July's Eureka-Wildwood Patch from George Weber about .)

The park acreage once was part of the 2,400-acre Tyson Valley Powder Plant used for testing and storing ammunition during World War II. It is included in the Meramec River Greenway, and has been in place for nearly 50 years.

In today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about proposed county budget cuts, the nearby World Bird Sanctuary, also off I-44, was referenced as a "financial drag on the county," however the sanctuary's founder and executive director, Walt Crawford, said it is an independent nonprofit organization that is separate from Lone Elk Park.

"I am totally opposed to the sale of Lone Elk Park," said Crawford, "because it is a very vital green space for the whole metropolitan St. Louis area."

Crawford said they witness "hundreds of thousands" of migratory birds using the corridor alongside Lone Elk and their location each year. "An unbelievably large number of species of birds depend on this open space," he said.

"Given that the Lone Elk Park property was given to St. Louis County, it's not their right to sell it."

Eureka-Wildwood Patch reader Cori Westcott today indicated online that she already wrote to county council members about the park. She reached out through Patch to Weber as an originator of Lone Elk, asking:  "What now? What else can we do?"

Weber said he believes this is unfortunately a preview of what's to come with many societal elements. "The government's out of money, the county's out of money. This world is going to come to a screetching halt pretty soon."

However, Weber said he hopes that Dooley and county officials will study the situation more closely and reconsider any shutdown proposals about Lone Elk Park because it doesn't need a lot of people to run it, compared to other parks, given that its inhabitants are wild animals. The park includes free-roaming elk, bison, wild turkey, waterfowl and deer.

"Lone Elk is such an easy park to enjoy. People can appreciate nature in their own way there," said Weber.

Crawford echoed Weber's sentiments, but said selling the property is not a viable option. "If we as citizens want wildlife, we have to give them somewhere to live. One thing people have got to realize is that we have to pay for green space. It's absurd to think about closing it. What would they close it for? For putting up houses and malls and asphalting it all? When the hell are we going to wake up?"

He said St. Louis is extremely fortunate to have these parks as resources, citing that he sees nothing like them in New York or San Francisco when he is on lecture tours.

"These wildlife destinations and green spaces are damn worth it, especially for saving for our grandchildren," he said.

Dooley's budget also would close St. Vincent Community Center in North County, the pools at North County and Kennedy recreation centers and the farm animals exhibit at Suson Park, according to the budget summary. Of the 175 jobs that would be eliminated countywide, about 135 would come from the county's department of parks and recreation.

Regarding Greensfelder Park, Wildwood's Planning and Parks Director, Joe Vujnich, said Wildwood staffers and representatives recognize Greensfelder Park as one of the premier facilities within the entire St. Louis region, in large part due to the stewardship efforts of the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation.

"City officials and staff anxiously await the outcome of the budgeting process between the St. Louis County Council and the County Executive’s Office, all hopeful that it leads to assurances this park will remain an integral and active part of this area’s Greenbelt for many generations to come," said Vujnich.

County council members meet tonight at 6 p.m., but county spokesman Mac Scott said because the 300-page proposed budget only came out this morning, the council will not discuss it in-depth.

Residents will be able to comment on the proposed budget at the first public budget hearing immediately after the County Council meeting on Nov. 15 at 41 S. Central Ave., in Clayton.

Dooley's other cost-saving cuts in the $10 million total include increasing fees for construction permits and not plowing subdivision streets during winter storms with 2 inches or less of snow.

Dooley requested a 2.8-cent rate increase in county property tax this summer, but council members did not support that move at the time.

Editor's Note: If you are concerned about the potential closing of Lone Elk Park, Greensfelder Park and West County Tyson Park, please comment here as part of this article. We would like to know how many people are interested in an online petition for advocating to keep the parks open, or at least analyzing other creative solutions.

Jamie Schreiber November 02, 2011 at 12:27 PM
One of the reasons we moved out to Eureka is to enjoy a beautiful scenic route home. Looking over at Lone Elk on the way down highway 44, I enjoy the drive down 109 because we have other things to look at besides buildings and houses. My kids enjoy hikes and looking at wildlife. We have enjoyed these parks in so many ways. You can't put a price tag on beauty and nature. If the parks are sold and made into tract housing or office space. We will not get this back. I would venture to say that this would also hurt homeowner's property values, because this is one of the benefits of living in this area. We are not out in the country, we have shopping and city life near by but it still feels like we are. I certainly will not vote for anyone who will be willing to sell our parks. It is a precious resource that cannot be replaced.
Jamie Schreiber November 02, 2011 at 12:42 PM
I say, don't vote for Charlie Dooley next election, he obviously doesn't care about the environment or our property values. If he wants to trim the fat, how about his 140,000.00 salary?
Mike Geller November 02, 2011 at 01:12 PM
If Dooley would simply stop putting millions of dollars in trains and buses nobody rides, I bet we could keep the parks open. Just a thought....
chris williams November 02, 2011 at 01:57 PM
They can not shut this park down. I take my daughters 8 and 4 there all the time we get out and walk I show them what a buck rub looks like scraps, deer trails it helps me teach them what to look for. It helps our youth learn about the great outdoors they complain about children always playing video games and then they want to shut down great places like lone elk where kids love to go. This is one of my favorite places to visit. I will let everyone I know to sign a petition If you get one going.
Robin Staub November 02, 2011 at 02:41 PM
I agree with those who have already commentated. The green space is a big part of why we moved here. Please draft a petition or next thing you know we'll be discussing whether or not to hire sharp shooters to "control" the elk and bison population to keep them from destroying subdivision yards. When will we wake up??
Kathy Evans November 02, 2011 at 03:46 PM
How about a big sign upon entering with a donation box? Something like, "2,000 people visit this park every month. Given our operating budget, that adds up to X dollars per visit. Please consider donating your share of our expenses, or better yet, a little more, to keep this park open." Or call it a voluntary admission fee and make it enough so that if every third car ponies up, it would be enough to keep the park open. I'm utterly willing to pay. I was married in Lone Elk park (an elk came to the reception, a lone one), and we have taken our children there scores of times since. I value it; I'll pay my share to keep it open. Also, put a "donate now" button on the County Parks website if there isn't one.
Bonney November 02, 2011 at 03:56 PM
These parks should absolutely stay open! It is appalling to me that closing them is even being considered. Why aren't they trying to find ways to keep them open? This is a tragedy if they are closed.
Kathryn Faries November 02, 2011 at 06:12 PM
I am on board to help with anything I can. Please contact me!
Sioux Mullins November 02, 2011 at 09:40 PM
This makes me sick. Does the government have no respect for Nature? Lone Elk Park is a park unlike any other. To close it would be a travesty. Where else can you go to drive through a park and see animals in their native habitat roaming free. And the birds at the World Bird Sanctuary. Please don't close it, what about having a $5 per car fee to enter the park and keep it open? Won't that help?
Jo Beck November 02, 2011 at 10:54 PM
Isn't it curious that during discussions of budgets, it never occurs to governmental bodies to cut the fat at the top, such as administrators like Charlie Dooley? No, they always want to trim the very things that the public values the most. It will be police & firefighters they want to cut next. We need to draft a replacement for Dooley because he's out of touch with St. Louis County residents!
Jim Spahr November 03, 2011 at 11:46 AM
I use these parks at least once a month. I hike and camp in Greensfelder and West Tyson and I take my children to observe the wildlife in Lone Elk. These lands belong to the people of St. Louis County. It should not be up to one County Executive to decide their fate. This decision should be put to the people of the county in a referendum.
Janet November 03, 2011 at 01:54 PM
I totally agree with all the comments to date. Do not close ANY of our parks. Look at other ways to save money. I agree with the other comment about Dooley's salary. What about all of their salaries and the "perks" that they all receive. Let us "little" people and our nature alone!
lisa November 03, 2011 at 02:10 PM
Absolutely opposed to closing any of this green space that, although was created as park space many years ago, represents a very forward thinking movement toward saving something for our children and grandchildren. Please start a petition. We enjoy these parks with our children and have little other opportunity for viewing these types of spaces. Thank you!
Tricia E November 03, 2011 at 02:13 PM
Please include me in opposing the closing of these parks.
Denise Bertacchi November 03, 2011 at 02:15 PM
Someone started an online petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/st-louis-county-executive-stop-closing-our-st-louis-parks-with-your-budget-cuts
Cindy Stites November 03, 2011 at 03:51 PM
I say cut the budget from the top down not the bottom up! I know as a business owner when there is not enough money to go around it is my pay that gets cut! I don't throw the little guy under the bus so I can keep a fat paycheck! I think that all Gov. officials should be willing to take a cut in pay and LOSE the golden umbrella of their special health care, retirement and self proclaimed pay raises!!! Honestly congress gets full pay for the rest of their lives for any amount of time in office, Special health care and they make their own pay raises whenever they want!!! What else to the gov. officials do that we aren't even aware of? Oh but they want to close our parks, SHAME ON THEM. Government used to be volunteer positions filled by regular people wanting to better thing for everybody. Not now, now it's career politicians wanting to better things for a select few...themselves
James Dochnal November 03, 2011 at 05:19 PM
Clseing any of the AWESOME and BEAUITFUL PARKS would be so sad where would you take a baby? to show him nature? or a child where would to show run and play? Or a couple in love go to be al;one? How about the the Elks where they go to run and be free? Don't close any of these parks parks
Ross Braun November 03, 2011 at 11:00 PM
I trail ride or hike weekly in Greensfelder County Park and more often during hunting season when the Conservation Areas are open to hunting. I retired and moved to the St. Louis area because of the great public parks, like Greensfelder, that have beautiful equestrian trails and do not allow hunting. I would like to help keep Greensfelder open.
TonY Kalna November 04, 2011 at 03:06 AM
The thought of St. Louis County, or the entire metropolitan St. Louis region, losing Lone Elk Park (LEP) is horrific. I'm 48-years-old and have been visiting LEP since I was a boy. My parents took me there when I was a youngster and then I started going on my own. I've taken my son there many times now too. I cannot count how many times I go to LEP yearly just to reflect, to photograph wildlife, to enjoy the scenery, to hike, and just to be outside in nature. I live in Jefferson County and make about a 35 mile drive to get to LEP. Most often, while I'm visiting the park I will stop before entering or after leaving to grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant, to fill up on gas, or stop at a store in Valley Park or Fenton. There's no telling how much I've spent in St. Louis County over the years just because I went to Lone Elk Park. LEP is a very unique park that has something for everyone. There is not much for employees there so I can't imagine it costing the county much to operate. If nothing else, they could require a fee to visit LEP. I would pay it. What can we do to stop this tragedy? Keep me posted please!
Don Viehman November 04, 2011 at 03:54 AM
Dooley's budget is a worn out tactic to gain the upper hand vs. the County Council. It's also reprehensible. Do you remember back in the day when Ronald Reagan was pushing his budget recommendations through congress? He went directly to the people with his reasons for the budget items. During part of his contention with congress, he addressed the tactics of the bureaucrats when the budget would adversely affect their domain. Reagan said that the first thing bureaucrats would cut is the allocation for the elevator at the Washington Monument. Fast forward to the present and we have Charles Dooley, bureaucrat.
Julie Brown Patton (Editor) November 04, 2011 at 09:18 AM
Thanks to everyone for your very thoughtful observations and comments about this matter. Our Eureka-Wildwood Patch coverage of the subject has been shared with Executive Director Charlie Dooley, the St. Louis County Parks director, and the District 7 County Council representative. Please return for updates, and keep your comments coming! Thanks again.
Frolic Inn November 04, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Good job Julie! Great idea to ask for comments giving us a way to connect with others quickly. The vote is in a few weeks not giving us much time. There is a group that is trying to help the city by getting the word out about this. Our parks, children and the animals will have a place in the future if we work as a community to preserve what the founders of Wildwood gave to us. We are the next generation and it is in our hands now to thank them.
Carolyn Hurt November 04, 2011 at 07:59 PM
i am constantly trail riding in Greensfelder with my daughter and son. Not to mention we hold fundraisers there at the park. This park closing would not only destroy park goers but also effect some non profits that do fundraising efforts there!
David Sewell November 04, 2011 at 10:12 PM
Our county parks are our legacy for the future. A short sighted decision to close parks for near term economic issues is not the answer. The parks belong to the citizens, and the citizens should be consulted and presented with options for keeping the parks open. Instead, the county leadership is making a carte blanche decision without sharing or discussion of options for keeping the parks open. There are many viable options for keeping the parks open such as reduced services, per day usage fees, annual resident usage fees, enforcing the collection of already existing fees (which are not well enforced today), partnering with local municipalities, etc. I encourage the county leadership to reach out to the citizens and local municipalities, because our citizens possess a wealth of creativity that can be applied to solving the county’s budget shortfall.
mary November 05, 2011 at 01:20 AM
Mr. Dooley's grand idea about closing our parks is ludicrous!!! its hard to believe that this has even been brought to the table!!!! this is the last thing st. Louis county should consider. We as adults, parents, and grandparents must protect and save these parks for future generations to enjoy just as we have. This whole thing not only sickens me, but it scares me. what will be next?
Michelle Parker November 06, 2011 at 01:42 AM
My husband and I visit the area 2-3 times a year and we always go to Lone Elk, World Bird and Powder Valley. They are wonderful. If St Louis closes these attractions, they can also say goodbye to the $2000 - $3000 a year we spend on these visits. Kentucky has some nice parks and so does Indiana...and I am sure I am not the only one from out of state who visits. By the way, we always put money in the donation boxes too - those who can't should enjoy without regret, but those who can should be ashamed of not contributing. It always bothers me to be behind a $40,000 SUV and see them not even slow down for the donation box!!
Christine Youngclaus November 06, 2011 at 12:23 PM
I visit Lone Elk park several times per year. I brag about it to my friends that live in other states....they have nothing like this. This park and the others help keep St. Louis County from turning into a concrete jungle. I agree with those who mentioned the same idea above: Think about our children and what will be left to them.
Rich Murphy November 06, 2011 at 04:33 PM
I have been visiting these parks for almost 40 years starting with Boy Scout outings. These parks are unique treasures with unique land features. The proposal to close these parks is an outrage. If this happens, I'm sure the next step will be to sell off this land for development - a crime in my view. I suggest that Dooley finds something else to sell.
Diane Zorich Schoen November 07, 2011 at 12:28 PM
While not knowing all of the details on this what I DO know is that the people of St Louis NEED these parks! There is no fee to get into these parks (except a small fee at times to get into George Winter Park.) Why not charge a small fee (& I DO MEAN SMALL) to get in. This is nature people! Are you seriously going to take NATURE away from us too??? Here is JUST A THOUGHT! In order to make money (& i can not beleive that I am typing this ~ as I really don't see where a NATURAL setting is supposed to be a MONEY MAKER!) When having benefit dinner for Government officials, instead of charging $1000.00 per plate charge $1500.00 per plate & put $500.00 of each plate towards the parks. THAT would surely bring in some money because you KNOW there are always dinners!!! I just DO NOT understand how you can SELL NATURE!!! I need a thorough explantaion PLEASE!!
Mary Anthonis November 07, 2011 at 07:26 PM
For everyone that is interested in showing the county how you really feel, there will be a public meeting on Nov. 15th at 6:30pm at the county courthouse in Clayton. Let's rally together and and let these people know we mean business! This is an outrage. In Wildwood we have very few county services. The county parks are the one thing we cling to as a county resource we truly enjoy and share with everyone.

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