St. Louis County Council approves adventure course at Creve Coeur Park
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 19, 2013 - Despite a long line of speakers sounding off against the proposal, the St. Louis County Council gave final approval to a measure allowing for a tree-top adventure course at Creve Coeur Park.
St. Louis County Council Chairwoman Kathleen Kelly Burkett’s bill 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 a cut of the proceeds, which could eventually reach $100,000 annually.
The course includes zip-lines, bridges and cargo nets. Acting parks director Tom Ott has described the course as a "physically engaging activity" that helps "builds self-confidence and teamwork among people."
The council passed Burkett’s legislation on Tuesday by a 5-1 margin. Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, was the lone ‘no’ vote. St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley is expected to the sign the bill.
The idea to build a zip line course has been controversial. It was initially going to be located at Greensfelder Park, but was scrapped after boisterous objections from equestrians that use the western St. Louis County attraction.
For the most part, speakers during the council's public forum spoke out against the proposal. Some expressed concern that the park's tranquility would be shattered by screaming zip-liners.
“A zip-line does not fit into the overall image of a quiet, nature park,” said St. Louis County resident Eileen Buescher. “There are walkers, bikers and others who come out to sit quietly and to join nature. We also do not want daredevils swinging through the trees while walking or biking or just relaxing.”
Others – including St. Louis Audubon Society President Mitch Leachman – contended that the course would disturb a renowned bird habitat located in the park. Leachman joined a number of other speakers contending that there hadn't been enough public input about the project.
“Had we been consulted during this process, we would have gladly worked with the park staff to help identify lower-quality woodland in the county parks’ system,” Leachman said. “With 60-plus properties in 13,000 acres, surely there are other places to locate this commercial enterprise -- sites that do not include critical habitat.”
“There’s no constituency or demand for this activity,” he added.
Right before he voted no on Burkett's bill, Quinn expressed discomfort about turning the county’s parks into lucrative spots for private businesses.
“As a policy matter, I don’t think we should be looking toward parks to generate revenue streams from commercial businesses,” Quinn said. “It may be useful in certain instances, but I really think that this is a step in the wrong direction. I’m afraid that this new business plan seeks to use public land almost in the way of profit centers.”
A least one speaker -- St. Louis County resident Bonnie Lorenz -- took a different view. She said the adventure course could add to an already vast array of activities available at St. Louis County parks.
“Our county parks have golf courses, swimming pools, skating rinks, horseback riding, fishing, archery, playgrounds, team challenge courses, the Museum of Transportation, the Butterfly House, mountain biking and hiking trails, and skateboard – and on and on,” Lorenz said. “Please vote in favor to adding a zipline adventure to our already great list of outdoor activities.”
Ott noted during the public forum that the course could become a regional attraction drawing tourists to visit other St. Louis County businesses. And for her part, Burkett, D-Overland, noted that the course will contribute to an already-active park.
“This park is used by everyone,” Burkett said. “There are boat races in the summer. There are soccer fields that are leased out to private enterprises. There’s a golf course. There’s a tee range. There’s a little clubhouse. This is an active, active park. And I do not feel that this is going to harm the park at all.”
According to a county press release Wednesday, the course could be open for operation in the spring.
Correction: An earlier version of this story cited a county press release, which stated incorrectly that construction on the course would start in the fall. Mac Scott, a spokesman for Dooley, sent out a corrected release on Wednesday stating that the course will be open for operation in the spring.