Forest Park

Forest Park in dawn’s early light

(Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Forest Park in St. Louis remains the crown jewel of the greater St. Louis area. A visitor will find an incredible array of amenities that are not found in most U.S. cities, or even in great cities of the world.

The park features a world-class art museum, an excellent history museum run the Missouri Historical Society, a popular public golf course, miles of trails for bikes and pedestrians, the world-class St. Louis Zoo, nature areas, festivals, lagoons, and occasionally visiting wildlife. I saw a snowy egret on one of my morning runs last weekend.

A nonprofit organization called Forest Park Forever now provides strong organizational and fiscal support to steer the park’s development and strategic planning needs. Given the fiscal challenges facing St. Louis, this approach likely will pay strong dividends for the entire metro region, which collectively benefits from having a free and accessible public park of this stature.

As a former University City resident (raised there) and longtime visitor to the St. Louis area over the decades, I cannot separate my love of the park from my concern for the metro region. The park’s current success in fulfilling its mission remains at odds with the prolonged pain of the City of St. Louis’s decline and de-urbanization. One needs to keep in mind the larger challenges facing the city, and its many residents who are struggling and whom the park serves, if you come and enjoy it any day of the year.

I took all of these pictures on a three-mile stroll along Lindell Boulevard to the Missouri HistoryMuseum, to the St. Louis Art Museum, through the wildflower savannah off Skinker Boulevard, and back to my starting point. You cannot beat a St. Louis morning walk like this in Forest Park!

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Two of my favorite parks in the world: Forest Park

 

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

By pure coincidence, I have lived in two great cities with two great parks named Forest Park. Both are national treasures. Both make both their home cities livable. Both parks improve residents’ quality of life by incalculable measures. They also are loved dearly by their communities. And both are incredible places to go for a long run.

I grew up in University City, next to St. Louis and its storied Forest Park. The 1,300-acre park is home to the free and world-class St. Louis Zoo and the free and the world-class St. Louis Art Museum. It has a public golf course, lagoons, and a fabulous running and biking trail that navigates its edge for about six and half miles. Nearly everyone who lives in the St. Louis area visits the park because it has something for everyone. The City of St. Louis reports the park gets 12 million (that’s right, 12 million) visitors a year! During every trip I take back to University City to see my family, I come here to run, walk, and enjoy its cultural treasures.

I now live in Portland. That city’s premier park also is called Forest Park. Unlike its cousin in St. Louis, Forest Park in Portland is a wooded natural area comprising 5,100 wooded acres. According to the City of Portland, the park boasts 112 bird and 62 mammal species. It features the 30-mile Wildwood Trail and a 12-mile long closed and dirt service road called Leif Erikson Drive. Together, they make for one of the best places for trail running and hiking near any major U.S. city. I have literally done hundreds of miles of trail running here since I moved back to Portland in 2014.

As a runner who has run in parks and on trails throughout the world, these two parks rank as some of my favorite places. If I could have access to no national park or wild place the rest of my life and only had one of these parks to enjoy, I think I could die a happy person.

If you are in either city, visit either park. Both have conservancies that now provide a lot of the back-end financing and volunteer work to keep the parks accessible year-round. Remember, it costs money to run a park and they deserve your support.

Forest Park, when the last leaves fall

I was unable to run last weekend, so I took a walk instead in my favorite place to enjoy trails: Portland’s Forest Park. Most of the seasonal color was already gone. A few remaining maples and other trees had some remaining leaves hanging, like forlorn orphans. The place looks more wide open now. You can see through the canopy. Today, when I did a run, nearly all of the leaves had fallen. It is a nice time of year and a great time to be in this park.

Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

A final burst of color as the storms brew darkly

Today was one of those days when the weather prediction for showers not only proved 100 percent accurate, it forgot to include the hail. But in the Northwest in November, you can stay indoors, or just get wet and enjoy this transition period from fall to winter. Most of the leaves in Forest Park, in my home town of Portland, Oregon, have fallen. They covered the forest floor in a mosaic of brown, yellow, and red. It was too wet for me to try to use my tripod. So I just held my FujiPro camera as steady as I could and clicked the shutter. I got a couple of OK shots. It was fun to see the colors and the many smiling people outdoors enjoying the rain, hail, rain again, and breaks of calm.

Odd and scenic sights on the Forest Park Running Trail

I grew up in the St. Louis area. One of my favorite places remains Forest Park, perhaps one of the nation’s top tier public parks. It is both historic and beautiful as a natural place in an urban setting. There is a six-mile running trail that circles the outer edge of the park that takes one by a bird sanctuary, a golf course, the Jefferson Memorial Building dating from the 1904 World’s Fair, some artificial ponds where urban fisherman really do fish, and the St. Louis Science Center. The latter has a life-size diaroma model of a tyrannosaurus rex battling a triceratops, which were among my favorite critters growing up.

One of the oddest attractions is a monument to the Civil War veterans from the Confederacy, highlighting the city’s legacy as both a Southern and Northern community–a racial and sometimes divisive legacy that remains today, as seen recently in protests in Ferguson. There is also a competing statue nearby of German-American veterans of the Union Army from the Civil War. These are all visible from the running trail. I decided to photograph these sights today using my GoPro Camera to capture the scenes with a fish-eye view.

Runners, put on you shoes and do a lap or two when you visit. You will love it. (Click on each photo to see larger pictures on separate picture pages.)