Public can weigh in on possible changes to Arch grounds

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

ST. LOUIS -- The National Park Service is considering changes to the grounds of the famed Gateway Arch, and the public will have opportunities to share its opinions.

Two "open house-style" meetings have been planned: the first meeting will be from 5 to 8 p.m. June 25 at the visitors' center in Forest Park in St. Louis. The second will be from 3 to 6:30 p.m. July 1 in the Old Courthouse downtown.

At the meetings, members of the public can stop in, learn about five possible alternatives for the future management of the park, and offer verbal comment, which can be recorded, or fill out comment cards. Members of the public who don't live in the area can take part in the process through the mail or electronically.

It's part of a process to update the existing management plan for the Gateway Arch and Old Courthouse over the next year and a half to two years. The Park Service has followed a master plan developed by the monument's famed architect Eero Saarinen for decades, but said the existing management plan needs updating.

The Park Service may explore the possibility of a walkway to allow pedestrians to move between downtown and the Arch more safely; new exhibits or events to improve education; and more visitor amenities, like the addition of food vendors.

Meanwhile, a group of civic leaders including former Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., is pushing for bolder changes.

Three civic leaders -- lawyer Walter Metcalfe, Missouri Botanical Garden Director Peter Raven and Missouri Historical Society President Robert Archibald, were asked by St. Louis' mayor Francis Slay to provide advice on improving the city's riverfront, which runs next to the Arch.

They support the addition of a new destination museum or cultural institution near the Arch. They want a three-block connector to help pedestrians cross from downtown to the Arch grounds. And they want to create a regional not-for profit trust that could receive private and public funds and oversee the design and maintenance of a new attraction.

"We didn't feel it was our place to impose a plan," Archibald said Monday. But, he said, he believes people should have additional reasons to visit and use the Arch grounds.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: