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Comprehensive History Of St. Louis Parks In New Book

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August 15, 2012
One great thing about living in St. Louis is easy access to plentiful green space. The area boasts tidy urban parks covering one city block and huge conservation areas of over a thousand acres.

Many of these treasures are featured in the book "St. Louis Parks" by NiNi Harris and Esley Hamilton. Produced by local publisher Reedy Press, the book features color photographs, brief histories and basic statistics on parks in the city and county.

Harris, author of many books on St. Louis history and neighborhoods, wrote the descriptions of the parks in the city of St. Louis. Hamilton, preservation historian for the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation, provided the text for St. Louis County parks. Mark Scott Abeln and Steve Tiemann are responsible for the outstanding photography. The foreword is by former Missouri Botanical Garden director Peter Raven.

This book is a treat for both newcomers to the area and longtime residents. It serves as an introduction to city and county parks, but even readers familiar with the area will learn something new.

The text is divided into sections on the city and county. The story of St. Louis Parks begins with Lafayette Park (founded in 1836) in the city and Creve Coeur Park (founded in 1945) in the county. Park descriptions range from a few paragraphs to several pages. Brief sections on state parks, Missouri Department of Conservation parks, and municipal parks supplement the park histories to give a comprehensive picture of the area.

Each park description includes an inset listing the size of the park, the year it was founded, and, in some cases, the original cost. Descriptions include information on the people responsible for creating the park, how the park has changed over the years, and notable events in each park's history.

Many historical events related to area parks reflect the wider history of St. Louis and the nation. Part of the former U.S. arsenal in St. Louis was donated by the War Department for a park to memorialize Captain Nathaniel Lyon, who commanded the arsenal during the Civil War. Later in its history, Lyon Park was designated a sleeping refuge for south side residents on hot nights.

In 1949, Fairground Park was the site of bitter conflict over the desegregation of the park's swimming pool. The hard times of the Great Depression are recalled by the Works Progress Administration structures at Fort Belle Fontaine and Tilles Park.

Sitting at the confluence of two mighty rivers, St. Louis contains many interesting and beautiful landscape features. "St. Louis Parks" illustrates how the creation of the wealth of attractive public spaces we enjoy today required not only natural resources but also the hard work and foresight of individuals.

Readers of this informative and attractive book will be inspired to explore new parks and to consider their favorite parks in a new light.

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