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Forest Park Forever highlights plans for $30 million endowment

Host Don Marsh speaks with Lesley Hoffarth, president and executive director of Forest Park Forever.
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

Since opening in 1876, Forest Park has been one of St. Louis’ go-to spots for the city’s most notable events, including the 1904 World’s Fair. With landmarks such as the Missouri History Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Zoo and The Muny, the 1300-acre park has earned its reputation as “one of the most beautiful urban parks in the world.”

Forest Park Forever is the organization responsible for the day-to-day operations of the park. It was founded in 1986 by a group of residents who were unhappy with the way the park had deteriorated over the years. By the mid-1990s, with assistance from city officials and the public, the organization raised $100 million and developed a master plan to restore the park. Today, public input is directed to the Forest Park Advisory Board, a 25-member board that represents interests ranging from neighborhoods and organized sports, to passive recreation and exercise. In addition, advisory board meetings are open to the public and people are welcomed to make suggestions about amenities in the park.

On June 10, Forest Park Forever announced a $30 million endowment gift from Enterprise Holdings founder Jack C. Taylor and his family.

Lesley Hoffarth, president and executive director of Forest Park Forever, explained that the bulk of the $30 million gift will be used to restore the park and for general maintenance. For example, there are plans in motion to continue adding to and extending available recreation amenities, as well as plans to upgrade event spaces, and to repair and restructure the water system to connect the park’s lakes.

“The endowment is there to really make sure that we’re doing much needed repairs, and doing the preventative maintenance things that we should,” Hoffarth explained.

Around 12-13 million people visit Forest Park each year, with over half coming to visit the cultural institutions and events.

“People have some of their best days in Forest Park,” Hoffarth said. “It truly is a treasure to our community. Jack Taylor and his family are very rooted in St. Louis and have great childhood memories of the park themselves. [They wanted] to do something that will pay it forward to families generations from now.”

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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