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New park at the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis makes safety a priority

An illustration of the new park displays visitors near food trucks walking toward the Chain of Rocks bridge. A pavilion nearby is surrounded by trees and bushes.
Great Rivers Greenway
A rendering of the new park, located at the western end of the Chain of Rocks Bridge

People in the St. Louis region who enjoy visiting the Chain of Rocks Bridge will soon be able to enjoy a new park built with safety in mind.

After more than a year of construction, the $1 million park opens Sunday.

The 16-acre park has a parking lot with an emergency phone, lighting and video surveillance, monitored by contracted security from 7:30 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset when the park closes. It includes a pavilion, lawn space, restrooms and drinking fountains, and a protected native prairie space.

“People wanted a place to gather, people wanted a place to be safe,” said Dallas Adams, a spokesperson for Great Rivers Greenway, which manages the park. “Safety was a top concern for this park. It's such a historic landmark for the St. Louis area so a lot of time and intention went into the planning.”

Built in 1929, the Chain of Rocks Bridge carried thousands of commuters over the Mississippi River until it closed in 1970. Since its closing, it has been a scenic path for bicyclists and walkers.

The Chain of Rocks Bridge Park was previously home to a gravel parking lot. After visiting the bridge, many visitors reported car thefts and car break-ins. The lot closed when Great Rivers Greenway began construction in early 2023. Visitors have used a nearby greenway to access the bridge entrance since.

Great Rivers Greenway has more than 100 miles of greenways — paths for hiking and biking — in St. Louis, St. Charles and surrounding counties. The public agency leveraged local tax dollars and a nearly $1 million grant from the National Park Service to pay for the new construction.

“We want people to come out and use this space to play live music, to have picnics, to sell things, just to activate the Chain of Rocks Bridge,” Adams said. “Otherwise, it's just a nice beautiful place for you to sit and pass some time.”

Those visiting on the park's opening day also can view a mural in progress by local artist Simiya Sudduth that highlights the Mississippi Flyway bird migration route and river geology. Residents near the site voted on the piece’s theme, as well as other park amenities.

“One of the things that we were challenging the artist to come up with is just something that tells the story of this space, whether it be the story of Route 66, which while beloved sometimes doesn't represent everybody in a community, or whether that be the geographical elements,” Adams said.

Sudduth will lead a Zine-making session at the opening event on Sunday. Park visitors can also buy from food trucks, hear live music and join a free biking tour or yoga class.

Lauren Brennecke is a senior studying journalism and media studies at Webster University. She is a 2023-24 Newsroom Intern at St. Louis Public Radio.