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Land clearing in Creve Coeur Park called into question

Protestors line up in front of the county office building prior to the St. Louis County Council’s Aug. 15 meeting.

County Council Chairperson Sam Page [D-Ward 2] wants to know what the council can do about grading already done on the site of a planned $45 million ice skating rink on 40 acres at the entrance to Creve Coeur Lake Park.

The council approved the land use last year but, without the permission of the National Park Service, it cannot be used for that purpose. After a crowd showed up at the council’s Aug. 15 meeting to protest that the site is already being cleared, Page asked County Counselor Peter Krane to find out what the council can do to stop the grading.

“I will be disappointed to hear that construction has moved forward without the approval of the National Park Service,” Page said. He added that the council didn’t properly consider the legislation approving the project. He wasn’t the council chair last year.

“This is what happens when we pass something in a hurry; when you don’t have the proper hearings,” he said.

However, Katie Jamboretz, vice president of marketing and communications for the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, said that what is happening is a grading project to handle stormwater. It is not connected to the ice rink project, she said.

The economic development partnership is involved because it is the manager of both the ice center project and the separate storm sewer project, Jamboretz said.

On Aug. 15, more than 100 protesters, many wearing green T-shirts, demonstrated in front of the county administration building in Clayton. During the council meeting, about two dozen people spoke against the project, though several also spoke in favor of it.

Protesters said the project would bring added noise and traffic to the park while cutting the size of its open area. They also contended that there are plenty of other places to put the ice arena.

Resident Rebecca Wright said she believed that “a sports area with acres of parking would change the nature of the park permanently.”

Resident Lisa Urban pleaded, “I want them to build an ice rink somewhere else.” And resident Linda Fenton said that the county should make its case about the rink to the public and then allow citizens to vote on it.

“There are so many communities around the county that would love to have this facility,” said Edward Heisel. “This project looks to me like a special favor to the Blues.”

The rink would serve as a practice facility for the St. Louis Blues and local amateur teams as well as a place where those teams could play and the public could skate.

“This is for our community and for our public and the future,” Patrick Quinn, chairman of the St. Louis Legacy Ice Foundation, said at the council meeting. That nonprofit group would raise the money and operate the facility. His group would sign a 30-year lease.

Another ice hockey enthusiast, Tim Decmeke, said there is a shortage of ice rinks in the area.

A total of $20 million in contributions would go for design and construction. The other $25 million would come from revenue bonds.

The St. Louis Ice Center would be built on land just south of Hwy. 141 at 13777 and 13750 Marine Ave. in Creve Coeur Lake Park. The Ice Center would have 1,500 parking spaces, four ice rinks, stadium seating and locker rooms.

The property is part of about 350 acres in the park that was bought with money from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Because of that, the National Park Service has to approve any use that isn’t for outdoor recreation.

Calls to County Parks and Recreation Director Gary Bess were not returned by presstime.

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