Forest Park Forever and the city of St. Louis on Monday released detailed plans and renderings for a donor-funded $10.5 million project that will transform the three lakes and the areas around them at the eastern end of the park.
Work will start in the first half of 2020 and will take 18 to 24 months to finish.
The work includes building a new visitor overlook and a waterfall at Jefferson Lake, planting nearly 500 new trees, improving access to the lake shorelines, and making underground and storm water improvements to reduce water use.
“With the changes that we’re making, it’s going to create new spaces people want to be,” Lesley S. Hoffarth, president and executive director of Forest Park Forever, said during a golf cart tour of the area Monday afternoon. “It’s that peaceful, tranquil, natural place in the park where people don’t spend as much time.”
The work is the final piece of the 1995 Forest Park Master Plan. The park has gradually linked and transformed its waterways over the past two decades. Project leaders held a series of open houses during the summer of 2018 to ask for input on this part of the project.
There are four main components.
• At Round Lake, they’ll replace the fountain in the center, which is more than 100 years old, and build a stone shoreline along the western edge for people to sit and explore and take in the views of mature cypress trees across the lake. They’ll plant more bald cypress trees and build an underground connection to the river system nearby, which means they won’t need to constantly fill it with potable water.
• They’ll build a new channel that connects the river system to Jefferson Lake. The river now ends just north west of Steinberg Skating rink, and the new connection will connect to the southern part of Jefferson Lake. The water will be visible from the ice rink and make it a more attractive spot year-round. Visitors can enjoy a new gravel bar, cascades, trails, a seating area, a picnic lawn and meadow. The wooden rails of a bridge crossing the water will be replaced with lighter metal rails so people can see the water more easily.
• Jefferson Lake, already a popular fishing spot, will be reshaped and enlarged, creating more natural opportunities for fishing, though fishing might be restricted at times during construction. They’ll add a picnic pavilion, replace the fishing dock and create a cascading waterfall and overlook along Clayton Avenue. The lake will be reshaped to go around cypress trees on the eastern edge, and a new boardwalk will weave around them. They’ll also build an underground water connection from the lake to Bowl Lake to the south, closer to the St. Louis Science Center. Parking on Clayton Road will be configured a little bit, Hoffarth said, but the area will gain some parking spaces. Jefferson Lake was completed in 1930.
• The Seven Pools water feature, dating to the 1930s, and the stone historic bridge there will be restored. Nearby Bowl Lake, which has been taken over by invasive species in recent years, will get an overhaul. “People don’t really know this is a lake right now,” said Hoffarth. Workers have already started to drain the lake, which is covered with drying lotus plants. A path will lead over the current stone bridge to a pavilion on the eastern end of the lake, and they’ll build a natural berm to create a buffer from nearby Highway 40 (Interstate 64).
Leaders also announced Monday that the 2½-mile river system that flows through the park has been named the Taylor Kindle River, in honor of the late Jack C. Taylor, founder of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and his support of the park.
SWT Design in Shrewsbury is the lead design firm on the project.
Ted Spaid, founder of SWT Design, remembers fishing in Jefferson Lake with his grandpa in the 1960s. The newly redesigned space will be ideal for creating new memories, as well as a better environment for fish and other wildlife, he said. He hopes the space will be inviting for people everywhere, especially those who live and work in the Central West End.
“What makes me excited about this part of the park is you feel like you’re in this amazing, quiet peaceful, serene environment by the water,” he said. “And then you look up above the trees and here’s this urban edge that kind of evokes that you are in this really cool city, but yet you can get lost in this beautiful park.”
SWT Design has worked on other Forest Park projects, including improvements to Art Hill, Central Fields and the Jewel Box.
In July, the park broke ground on a new, 17-acre nature playscape, set to be finished in 2020.
The area won't include traditional playground equipment. Kids and families will be encouraged to build, get dirty and have fun.