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Ape Escape: STL County Council to consider obstacle course at Creve Coeur Park

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 5, 2013 - The St. Louis County Council will consider whether to place an elaborate, tree-top obstacle course at Creve Coeur Park.

The proposal, which was  introduced on Tuesday, would allow the Maryland-based Go Ape company to build and operate a multi-faceted course at the county's 2,114-acre park. The county parks’ department would receive some of the proceeds, which acting director Tom Ott estimated could reach $100,000 annually.

Ott said that the “outdoor treetop adventure course” includes ziplines, bridges and cargo nets. He described the course as a “physically engaging activity.”

“It’s physically challenging. It helps build self-confidence and teamwork among people,” Ott said. “We think it’s a great opportunity for St. Louis County and our residents to come out and enjoy the parks. It’s something that’s different and unique than anything that’s out there right now.”

Initially, the course was going to be located at Greensfelder Park. But that plan was scrapped after objections from equestrians – who routinely frequent that western St. Louis County park.  

On Tuesday, some residents expressed similar skepticism of the proposal. Karen Meyer, who resides in unincorporated St. Louis County, told council members she was “a little bit concerned about the appropriateness” of the course.

“People want the park to stay pretty much a place where they can enjoy nature quietly and not have a lot of structures,” Meyer said.

And Ballwin resident Jean Favara said that the course could interfere with Creve Coeur Park’s birdwatchers.

“Creve Coeur Memorial Park – like the project proposed at Greensfelder Park – is also a nationally designated bird area,” Favara said. “It provides critical habitat for migrating and nesting bird species that are currently undergoing population declines.”

Favara requested that an environmental assessment be completed to determine the impact the course would have on the park.

Asked about the public criticism of the proposal, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley said Creve Coeur Park had plenty of room for birdwatchers, trail enthusiasts and boaters. He also pitched the plan as a way to steer some revenue toward the county's park system.

“There is enough room for those individuals in this park,” Dooley said. “St. Louis County has more than 12,000 acres of parkland. We have plenty of parkland. We need to put some things in it that will make it [more accommodating for people] and enhance the spirit of the parks.”

When asked whether an environmental impact study was needed, Dooley replied, “I’m going to go by the recommendation of our parks people.”

“They do this for a living every day,” he said. “And they’re confident that it’s in order.”

The council could provide initial passage for the bill at next week’s meeting.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.