By. Chris Stritzel
Yesterday I had the chance to go and visit the recently completed and opened North Gateway portion of the Arch Grounds. As the Renovation of the grounds continue further South, the Northern end of the Park is completed. The Renovation of the Arch grounds is aiming at creating a dynamic flow from the City to the River. With the removal of the Arch Parking Garage and Washington Avenue from the site, the Arch grounds are now easier to access from Lacledes Landing and the Metro Station.
When you visit the Arch Grounds now from Lacledes Landing, you will find it mush easier to access. Since Washington Avenue and The Parking Garage don't exist anymore, you can easily cross underneath the Historic Eads Bridge and go directly onto the Arch Grounds. Coming from the MetroLink system is even easier. Just hop of the train at the Lacledes Landing station and once you get off the platform, the grounds are to the immediate right. This easy integration of the Park into the City's urban grid helps connect the City to the River via a major Urban National Park.
Continuing into the Park itself, you will find a large amount of different sidewalks and trails that can lead you through the renewed Arch Grounds. The trail system is something that is great if it is a nice day out to take a walk or other outdoor activity. In the Center of the trail is a big circle. That big circle is where picnics can be held on flat land. As you can see in the photo below, this part of the Arch grounds isn't very level. This specific feature, the hills, give a sense for a near river environment that you see similar to the South. This is a nod to our City's geography of being along a major River.
A more unique Feature of the trail and walkway system up here in the Flyover Pedestrian Bridge which takes you to the top of the Train Tunnel. From this vantage point, you can over look the River and East St. Louis. Turn around, and you can see the skyline. This walkway is unique in more ways than one as well. Instead of having a concrete walkway, it has a metal grate walkway. This allows you to look down at the ground beneath you. This bridge is not for people afraid of heights because at one point the bridge reaches a peak of being 30 feet off the ground, and it flexes if someone walks by.
The walkway also offers a very unique view of the Eads Bridge and its older stairwells up to the driving deck of the bridge. In all, this flyover bridge is a history tour in itself showing the Old and New side by side while also offering great views of the skyline and park,
But what is so significant about North Gateway? The answer is quite simple. It shows what a urban park should and could be if the right materials are used. When they are used, it forms a unique design that will be noticeable and enjoyable for generations while
also improving knowledge of urban planning. The fact that the National Park Service decided to design the new portion of the park with a "urban feel" in mind is astounding.
The City Government could also learn a thing or two about the way park renovations can be done to make the parks more modern and fun. All they have to do is some on down to the Arch Grounds and see how it is has been redesigned to meet the younger generations in the City as well as please the older generations. This a where old and new meet and it is a great and interesting experiment that I believe is a success.
And to to wrap up the story, the picture below represents what I mean by when Old and New meet. The Lewis and Clark Statue reminds me and should remind everyone about St. Louis' humble beginnings as the Gateway to the West and the Photo below symbolizes that. It looks like Lewis and Clark are looking onward to prosperity and the American Dream with the thought of greatness on their minds, and just like this project, it has achieved greatness to the highest level.