Bill to provide funding for regional parks, greenways and CityArchRiver project 

On Friday Dec 7, Alderman Phyllis Young introduced Board Bill number 258 to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. The Safe and Accessible Public Parks Initiative proposes a 3/16 of a cent sales tax increase that would provide for improvements to the Arch as well as the region’s parks.

If approved, the proposed increase would generate a projected $38 million per year, costing taxpayers just under than two cents for every ten dollars in retail purchases.

Area parks, which have long experienced financial shortfalls, would receive approximately 40% of the funds generated by the bill – or an estimated $15.2 million per year. The funds would be distributed to local municipalities to perform restorative maintenance and to add safety and accessibility improvements, as needed.

The legislation dictates that Great Rivers Greenway and CityArchRiver would each receive approximately $11.4 million of the projected $38 million in annual funds. As part of the public-private initiative, Great Rivers Greenway would serve in an oversight capacity for the CityArchRiver funds, administering funds to the project per a cooperation agreement outlined in the bill, which will be introduced on Friday.

The proceeds allotted to Great Rivers Greenway (30% of the total revenue), would be utilized to build out the River Ring greenway system to more fully connect the St. Louis region.  Great Rivers Greenway was created in 2000 when the people of St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County voted in favor of clean water, safe trails and community parks. The organization, which seeks to make the St. Louis region a better place to live, has built out more than 100 miles of dedicated urban green space and 84 miles of on-street bicycle trails through Bike St. Louis since 2000. An estimated 91% of funds directed to Great Rivers Greenway have been returned to the public in physical infrastructure improvements and land acquisition since that time.

The proceeds designated to the CityArchRiver project (30% of the total revenue), would support the efforts  to connect downtown to the river and to revitalize the Arch grounds to increase tourism. The improvements proposed by the bill would provide for ADA accessibility for the first time in history from downtown to the St. Louis riverfront. The CityArchRiver design proposes to build a park over highway 70, allowing for tourists to travel to and from the riverfront by bike or by foot with ease. As part of the project, Great Rivers Greenway intends to raise Leonor K. Sullivan Drive which will reduce flooding and provide opportunities to enjoy the river on a promenade and a dedicated trail.  The connection of the Confluence and Mississippi  River Greenways at the Arch will provide the backbone of the River Ring, allowing people to ride, walk and enjoy the river.

The bill was introduced at Friday’s meeting in St. Louis City, and will be discussed at a Board of Aldermen meeting on Thursday Dec 13 at 10 a.m. The public is welcome to attend.

The issue will next be discussed by the St. Charles County Council on Monday Dec 17 at 7 p.m. The public is also welcome to attend this meeting.