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North Gateway green space celebrates Saturday at the Arch

Visitors to the Gateway Arch walk the new elevated walkway in the renovated 7.5 acres on the north side of the Arch on Friday, April 7, 2017. The CityArchRiver renovation of green space stands partially where the old parking garage once stood. A free community event featuring live music and food will be held from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday. Photo by Robert Cohen,

ST. LOUIS • Cloudless skies and temperatures north of 70 degrees made for the perfect day to officially open another renovated section of St. Louis’ riverfront.

Hundreds of people came out Saturday to listen to live music, grab a bite from local vendors and celebrate the opening of the North Gateway and Gateway Arch park.

The event, organized by the CityArchRiver Foundation and a few partner groups, was dubbed “Spring Into Your Park” and was the first of a long list of scheduled outings at the park this year.

The 7.5-acre North Gateway development includes bike and foot paths, an amphitheater area and routes to Laclede’s Landing. That’s all part of about 90 acres of open park space around the Arch.

“People need to come back down and be part of the Arch grounds again,” said Eric Moraczewski, executive director of the CityArchRiver Foundation. “I think traditionally people think of the Arch as the Arch itself, but this is a great place to come hang out with their families in a park setting.”

The $380 million riverfront project will wrap up with Kiener Plaza renovations to be finished next month, then the Arch and museum which are to open by the end of the year, according to Moraczewski.

St. Louis resident Ann Donnelly came by with a friend, listened to music and even stopped to hear speeches from local leaders before a ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the park.

“It’s just beautiful,” Donnelly said. Her favorite part of the park is still the Arch itself, though, she joked.

Suzanne Osredker of St. Charles came out to vet the trails for future walks and bike rides before she comes back on her own or with her grandchildren in the coming weeks.

“Typically we come down here for ballgames, but this changes that,” she said, referring to downtown.

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To Osredker, the park is now a destination.

“I know what the city is like, and there’s so much bad press out there lately, but this is a great place,” she said. “If you were just watching what the national news said about St. Louis, you wouldn’t know that there are beautiful things like this to enjoy.”

Speakers from groups involved with the renovation and local elected leaders applauded the park opening and thanked taxpayers for their support through a sales tax increase of 3/16 of a cent that passed in 2013.

Behind the speakers, people walked their dogs, children raced to see who could roll down a hill faster and families worked to build a mini-Arch out of blocks.

“I’m in awe every time I drive by the Arch, and I’ve been working downtown for 46 years now,” Mayor Francis Slay told the crowd. “I never take it for granted. But this framing of this beautiful icon is spectacular.”

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Ashley Jost is the higher education reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.