Originally the site of a logging operation, the now tree-ladened land that is Greensfelder Park will be getting its first major expansion in more than 30 years.
Announced by St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page on April 6, the expansion will involve the development of 156 acres, which will be added to the park’s sizable expanse of 1,582 acres. The addition will focus on both passive recreation and conversation.
The project is being made possible through a partnership with The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting environmentally and economically significant places. According to the county, the acquisition of the land and the development will not require any additional tax dollars. But, as Page declared, “This will be a valuable addition to Greensfelder Park and the entire county park system.”
In a press release announcing the acquisition, the county described the new acreage, which is adjacent to the southeast corner of the park, as primarily targeted for passive use.
“There are a lot of homes on the eastern side of the park and this will allow them easier access to the park,” a county spokesperson said when asked for further details. “We will do some ranger programs here like nature walks, outdoor educational programs, kids fishing, etc. However that is not the main focus.”
The county is planning to work with the Open Space Council for the St. Louis Region and the Conservation Stewardship Alliance to restore portions of the property to native habitat. In connection with the land donation, The Conservation Fund will be adding an additional $20,000 to jump-start the management and stewardship of the space.
Though the project is being announced now, work related to the acquisition will not be immediate as The Conservation Fund is still negotiating with the land’s seller.
Greensfelder Park currently has a trail network of more than 8 miles that connects to adjourning trails maintained by the Missouri Department of Conversation. Together, there are 32 miles of trails available to the public. Trail use will continue to be a major draw for park visitors.
In a fact sheet provided by The Conservation Fund, the organization notes that “most of Greensfelder County Park is undeveloped other than the trail network.” That makes the area an ideal project for conservation and preservation. It also helps in curtailing future costs.
According to the county, the plan for ongoing maintenance of the added acreage is not expected to require a major budget item. “The maintenance is minimal with some regular mowing of a small portion, most of the property is wooded or fields,” the county spokesperson said.
The county also notes that volunteer organizations, such as the Open Space Council, will provide assistance with the removal of invasive species and help with the planting of native plants in designated areas. Future grant money for additional improvements could also be sought.
According to the county website, the land which is now Greensfelder Park was assembled in the 1850s by William T. Christy and Robert K. Woods of Woods, Christy & Co., a dry goods company in downtown St. Louis. Woods and Christy also formed a lumber company which operated on the land in southwestern St. Louis County. In the late 1800s, the property passed to Christy’s son, Calvin M. Christy, who extracted the clay and other minerals from the land for his Christy Fire Clay Company, which was organized in 1881.
In 1893, Christy sold the land to Charles Evans, who is said to have offered a 300-acre tract to the city of St. Louis for use as a park.
St. Louis County did not acquire the original land until 1963 when it was donated by the Trustees of the St. Louis Regional Planning and Construction Foundation. The Foundation was established in 1939 by A. P. Greensfelder, civic leader and chairman of the board of the Fruin-Colnon Construction Company. Originally called Rockwood Park, the park was officially renamed in Greensfelder’s honor in the fall of 1965.
In addition to its miles of trails, existing features and amenities of the park include a playground, a Team Challenge Course and Alpine Tower, limited primitive and family camping sites, a Nature Learning/Visitor’s Center and four reservable shelters (Muckerman Shelter, Glassberg Shelter, Mustang Shelter and Dogwood Shelter).