Conservation Comes to the City
these corners are where many people congregate on summer evenings. They stop and talk to each other, whereas before they passed like strangers."
One of the richest natural treasures to be found in St. Louis is in the midst of Forest Park, with all the hustle and bustle associated with the St. Louis Zoo, Science Center, Muny theater and other features. Ken Cohen knows about this forest treasure and has come to Kennedy Woods for years to observe songbirds, particularly migrating warblers. "This is considered a premier birding area," says Cohen. "The concentration of songbirds in Kennedy Woods is much greater than anywhere in the Ozarks.
"I also come to get away from the stress of urban life," Cohen reveals. "This really is both a wildlife refuge and a human refuge."
Conservation Department Forester Rob Emmett calls this 80-acre parcel, which the Conservation Department manages for the city of St. Louis, a remnant forest. It's considered an old growth oak-hickory forest, as the trees here are in the 200- to 300-year old category, Emmett explains.
"This is probably the only place you can stand in St. Louis and see it as it was 200 to 300 years ago," Cohen surmises. Cohen and several other local residents are part of a citizen's advisory group that is assisting the Conservation Department in planning efforts for the area.
Current plans call for the Conservation Department to fund and build two trails with interpretive signage, bathrooms, a pavilion and an outdoor classroom.
"Some urban kids have never been in the woods before and may never get to the Ozarks," remarks Cohen. "This gives them an opportunity to experience the woods in an overall setting that they understand."
And this understanding is what McCarthy would say the Conservation Department's efforts in the urban areas are all about. "In the end," says McCarthy, "if we ignore the people in the urban area, they'll lose more than just an understanding of the Conservation Department; they'll lose the outdoors. By getting them to come outside, something changes for most people. It's one thing to look at pictures of the natural world, it's another to come out and actually experience it. When you experience it firsthand, it becomes yours."
A City Sampler
These are some of the partnership programs sponsored by the Conservation Department in St. Louis and Kansas City.
Grants to St. Louis in the last 5 years alone total nearly $4.5 million, including projects