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Ride Metro, Walk Neighborhoods

Ten Toe Express walking tours begin in April

Participants in Ten Toe Express ride MetroLink from the Shrewsbury Station to neighborhood destinations where they will take part in walking tours. Tour leader Dan O'Connor is pictured to the right, wearing a red sweater. photo courtesy Hauser Group Inc..

March 17, 2017
Ten Toe Express will begin leaving the Shrewsbury MetroLink Station in April, so it's not too early to make a reservation. That's advice from Crestwood's Dan O'Connor, who will start his second decade as a tour leader.

The Ten Toe Express is a program of Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT). Under the program, riders take mass transit to stops in the St. Louis region where the informative walking tours begin. O'Connor's favorite walking tour stops include Forest Park, Central West End and the Eads Bridge at Laclede's Landing.

"The St. Louis Zoo is a favorite stop for our Ten Toe Walking Tour," said O'Connor. "People love to see the sea lions and the new polar bear. When we walk through Forest Park, we make sure to stop at what has been called the ugliest, gnarliest tree in all of Forest Park.

"When we tour city locations, I always get this comment: 'I had no idea there was so much to see in St. Louis,'" said O'Connor. "People have lived here all their lives only to discover all these new things through the Ten Toe Express Walk Program."

In its previous 10 years, more than 8,000 area residents have collectively trekked thousands of miles exploring the St. Louis region. More than 1,200 guided tours have integrated public transit use with educational walking.

Originally created to attract St. Louis seniors, the program now attracts all ages. Participants learn how easy it is to integrate walking with public transit use to get around town. The program also promotes the public health benefits of exercise and alternative commuting.

Dan O'Connor leads a Ten Toe Express walking tour. He has led 240 walks over the past decade. photo courtesy Hauser Group Inc..

O'Connor has led 12 tours in the spring and 12 tours in the fall for the past decade for a total of 240 walks. His wife, Meredith, has helped him keep an eye on all the walkers for most of the tours. Nobody gets left behind.

"We usually have 15 to 20 walkers on our CMT tours," said Meredith O'Connor. "We usually just leave at 9 a.m. on Monday mornings from the Shrewsbury Station with whoever shows up. If it's an RSVP Ten Toe Walking Tour, people do then have to register ahead of time.

Walks Kick Off April 6

Registration for this year's Ten Toe Express events will be held at sites around the area, although it's also easy to register online at www.cmt.stl.org. CMT will team up with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) for a March 22 registration event from 1 to 3 p.m. at the CMT downtown office, Suite 200 at 911 Washington Ave.

New registrants can pick up a walking kit containing a pedometer, transit tickets, St. Louis maps, a safety tips flyer and a ten toe tote bag.

Registrants also will have a chance to take part in several special walks, including a behind-the-scenes tour of the Grand Center Arts & Cultural District on April 6, a tour of the Washington University Medical Center Campus in May and an opportunity to "test out" the Loop Trolley before its anticipated summer grand opening.

The Grand Center Tour will include visits to Strauss Park, the Locust Business District, Contemporary Art Museum and the Pulitzer. Ten toe walkers will check out Robert Bullivant's Gallery, the new .ZACK Performing Arts Theatre space and Arts Academy Plaza.

The tour will be led by Matthew Kerns, director of community engagement at programming at Grand Center. For those interested, the tour will finish up with a Thursday Morning Coffee Concert series performance by the Laurence Hobgood Trio at the Bistro.

"We are so excited to be partnering with AARP in St. Louis to host the spring session of our Ten Toe Express program," said Kim Cella, executive director of CMT. "This year, there are many new destinations to explore, and we encourage those interested in learning more about integrating walking with public transit to register today."

The upcoming 12-week Ten Toe Express session will run from April to June and the cost to participate is $10. The walks, led by trained, volunteer walk leaders, range in length from 0.3 to 5 miles depending on the group and destination and originate from the Brentwood, Forest Park, Belleville, Rock Road, North Hanley and Shrewsbury MetroLink stations.

Tour Memories Made

Crestwood's Dan O'Connor and his wife, Meredith, said they have some favorite tour stops and favorite memories from their decade of leading tours out of Shrewsbury.

"On our Eads Bridge walk, we check out Laclede's Landing and go to the Lumiere Casino," said Dan O'Connor. "We may also walk the Eads Bridge for the views of the Arch and to see the fountain on the Illinois side.

"On our Central West End walk, a lot of it is just checking out the beautiful neighborhoods and sometimes we arrange to tour magnificent homes," said O'Connor. "Of course, we will also take in the Chase Park Plaza, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and the Cathedral.

"We do a Delmar Loop walk and we have stops at University City Hall, the Moonrise Hotel and we pay a visit to the COCA Arts Center," O'Connor added.

O'Connor said the walks take a lot of planning and visits to institutions and buildings are not serendipity. They have to be arranged ahead of time with the necessary permissions granted for visitors.

"It can be exasperating trying to make contacts and to get to the right people to set all the things up," said Dan O'Connor. "But then you do the tour, you get a lot of nice feedback, and you're ready to do all the arrangements again.

"We have some regulars who have been going with us for years," added O'Connor. "Betty Sherman of Webster Groves is one of our loyal walkers."

Meredith O'Connor said some people are scared of using the MetroLink and the walks are a way to get comfortable with mass transit in St. Louis.

"We have never been asked for money or hassled in any way on the MetroLink," said Meredith O'Connor. "We get people on the tour who have never been on it and they end up saying to us: 'Hey, this is not so scary. I actually do like this way of getting around."

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