Several Wildwood residents at Monday's city council meeting raised major concerns about the proposed treetop adventure course being recommended by St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Department managers to be built in Greensfelder Park in Wildwood. Current county park plans are to enable a privately owned, Maryland-based company to transform about seven acres of Greensfelder into an treetop zipline and obstacle course.
Among people's concerns since news of this project went public are:
- Public transportation issues and public safety
- Human, equestrian and wildlife safety
- Environmental impact
- Perceived secretive nature of overall project, including costs and timeline
- Lack of public input and inclusivity
- Increased noise pollution
- Public versus private use of protected land
- Questions regarding use of tax dollars
- County versus city jurisdiction
- Precedent-setting nature of actions
- True purposes/meaning for parks
See previous articles for background:
County 'Goes Ape' to Help Save Greensfelder Park in Wildwood
Treetop Park Tabled on St. Louis County Council Agenda
District 7 County Councilman Weighs in on Proposed Treetop Park
Some people prior to Thanksgiving voiced the county's process to secure a contract with the private treetop park company, GoApe!, is moving too quickly and without adequate public input.
Wildwood residents Eva Brinner and Nancy Mueller, who both live near Greensfelder Park, started an online petition "in TOTAL OPPOSITION to the proposed recreational Zipline development in this Park."
The petition references the fact that Greensfelder Park was donated to St. Louis County by civic leader Albert P. Greensfelder, an avid conservationist who wanted to protect the 1,700-acre site as green space.
The petition emphasizes other concerns:
"Had due diligence been done in advance by St. Louis County, the inappropriateness and potential for overuse, traffic gridlock, and resulting dangerous accidents here would have easily been apparent. Even a simple Traffic Engineering Safety Report would have rejected this Greensfelder Park site for development."
As of early Monday morning, petition organizers had 357, or 89 percent, of the stated goal of securing 400 online opponents. In addition to petitioners who listed Missouri as their residency, opponents from the additional following states signed it as well: Illinois, Washington, Utah, California, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Florida, Oregon, New York, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Colorado and New Hampshire. Even petitioners from the United Kingdom, Spain, Austria, Poland, Germany and Italy weighed in.
Here's what online petitioner Janet Ferguson from Missouri added to her stated opposition: "We residents of St. Louis County love our parks. Please consider further study on the proposed Zipine site and its impact on this beautiful conservation site. If any further development is appropriate, it should be within the context of education as related to the ongoing classes provided at Rockwoods Reservation for all ages—another gift in addition to Greensfelder Park from St. Louis County Civic Leader Albert P. Greensfelder, Conservationist. This type of Zipline might be more appropriate in a State Park or a waste area in need of redevelopment, such as can be found adjacent to many highway interchanges. A privately donated conservation area certainly is NOT the place. Please table this project for further study into all the aspects related to further development, especially those of public safety and species survival. When our wild areas are lost, they are gone forever. I would recommend careful study before going forward in this design. There are many reasons that roads alone can wreak havoc with an ecosystem of any kind. Many species are dependent upon unbroken tracts of land. The fewer roads into a conservation area, the better, in general. Meanwhile, deer and automobiles do not mix. This is a no-brainer. Bringing many more vehicles into an area through rural winding access roads potentially increases the likelihood of pollution and traffic accidents with potential fatalities."
Petitioner Jeffrey Mueller, also from Missouri, asked: "Would Mr. Greensfelder have wanted his generous land gift to the people marred by a zip line? No. It was intended to be a quiet respite from the ills and asphalt and unnatural noise of our crowded cities. Let it remain a place of peace and quiet and natural beauty. Nature cannot be improved upon."
Tom Ott, acting director for St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Department, continually has said one of the main reasons staffers are pursuing this canopy obstacle course is to generate revenue for a county park system that faces a huge budget deficit.
The treetop adventure course is projected by Ott and GoApe! representatives to be able to generate $45,000 to $60,000 for the county the first year in operation, and $100,000 or more in annual income for years thereafter. Greensfelder Park users consistently have asked if funds from the proposed treetop course would stay associated with Greensfelder, but park officials said the money would be blended into the overall park department budget.
Tuesday's agenda for St. Louis County council members includes an item to approve a $22,945,211 park maintenance fund for fiscal year 2013.
The petition posed: "All this disruption to the park to raise $50,000 when the budget is $23 million per year! Is it worth it for a revenue gain of 2/10 of 1% of the Park budget?"