Chesterfield Parks Offer Something for Everyone
Parks in Chesterfield – from big to small, from passive parks with trails to active ones with lots of action and amenities – offer something for everyone. That’s according to Mike Whelan, a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Citizens Advisory Committee, and a recent volunteer at a fishing derby in Central Park for about 50 kids ages 15 and under.
“I’ve been in the city about 13 years, and I’m a fishing junkie, so I’m really glad the new River’s Edge Park just opened and that the lake at Central Park is now open to catch and release fishing,” Whelan says. “I also really enjoy the amphitheater in Central Park and I go to as many events there as I can such as movies or concerts. My wife and I take advantage of the levee trail. It’s so neat to be able to see all the green space Chesterfield still has.”
Mike Geisel, director of Public Services for the City, and Tom McCarthy, director of Parks, Recreations and Arts, recently highlighted some of the most popular parks facilities offered by the community.
CHESTERFIELD VALLEY ATHLETIC COMPLEX
The Chesterfield Valley Athletic Complex is the largest park in the city at just over 225 acres. Opened in 1999 at 17925 North Outer 40 Road, it has numerous athletic fields – 16 softball/baseball fields, as well as 13 multi-sport fields of different sizes used for soccer, lacrosse, football, and even ultimate frisbee with a fully accessible Miracle Field and pickle ball played in a separate location in the complex, along with 14 additional practice fields.
“We estimate well over a million visitors come there each year,” Geisel says.
As of August when three more fields are added, there will be 25 of the fields lit to allow play at night. The facility is solely operated by the City, and its largest user groups are the Chesterfield Baseball and Softball Association, Ascension Soccer, and the Chesterfield Football Association. All fields are grass with the exception of the fully-accessible Miracle Field which is available to those of all abilities and has a surface called Mondo, a rubberized material which is helpful to those with mobility issues and makes it easier to operate walkers and wheelchairs on those.
“We’re looking at doing some hybrid fields that are synthetic and grass on a trial basis to see how it works out,” McCarthy says. Fields are constantly busy. Recently, a Real Madrid soccer camp was going on as well as a kinetic body flight experience, which simulates the experience of skydiving without having to jump out of a plane. Part of the Pedal the Cause fundraising bike ride will go through the complex as part of the course on Sept. 27.
The City’s newest park is River’s Edge, on 198 acres and which opened in April of this year north of and behind the Taubman Prestige Outlet Mall near the Missouri River.
“It’s been a surprisingly popular park, almost overwhelmingly,” Geisel says. The park offers a floating dock and a pavilion as well as walking trails. Many users go there to enjoy fishing, paddle boarding, bird watching and walking. It’s a wetland preserve area bounded by conservation easements and no motorized vehicles are allowed. Visitors must park on the Prestige Outlets lot in a designated area on the far west end.
“Canoeing and kayaking groups regularly use it, and we have paddleboard and kayak classes and are working with the Alpine Shop to do some kayak races there later this year,” McCarthy says.
Central Park, on both Lydia Hill Drive and Veterans Place Drive, was the first city park property purchased, opening on 43 acres in 1997, after voters approved an $11 million parks bond issue in 1994. Geisel says the park’s main components are the amphitheater, the family aquatic center, and various art works scattered throughout the park. McCarthy describes some of the improvements.
“There’s now a fully accessible playground on which we just put new surfacing through a St. Louis County municipal park grant,” McCarthy says. Central Park also offers walking trails, two stream walks, a lake, and pavilions.
“Another feature that’s been good for the community is the linear park along Veterans Place Drive, which is set up for street festivals,” Geisel says.
McCarthy says that, for the Taste of St. Louis last year alone, about 200,000 people visited.
“We’ve just started our newest free Sounds of Summer concert series and will have a new orchestra music series at the amphitheater,” McCarthy says. “We also do a summer movie series at the amphitheater.” Folks like Whelan can enjoy catch and release fishing throughout the summer. And the aquatic complex features a lazy river, water slides and competition pool.
Eberwein Park opened in 2012 on 18.5 acres at the intersection of Highcroft Drive and Old Baxter Road. A popular main feature of the park is the 2.5 acre dog park.
“We average about 800 dog tags to use the dog park per year, and limit users to only Chesterfield residents,” Geisel says. “In the first year of the park, due to the dog park usage, we had to expand the size of the parking lot three times.”
Also well used at the park is a community garden with 53 individual garden plots. There’s a wait list for plots each year.
“We now have 84 people on the waiting list and are working on establishing another community garden area on additional land in either another park or other site,” McCarthy says. A person will rent a four-by-eight-foot plot and raised bed each year.
“We till it, bring in topsoil and provide water and a fenced enclosure,” Geisel says. “Our first priority when renting out plots each year goes to prior year rentals, and people can raise whatever they want – flowers, vegetables or any legal crop,” Geisel says. The park originally was the property of the Eberwein family which farmed the area for many years. “We have kept the almost-100-year old Eberwein barn that the City restored and created a walk through area,” Geisel says. “We put a split rail fence around the property, also to try to retain the original farm feel.” Users can also take advantage of walking trails and a large open play field. A grant this year will let the City do some restoration work on a park pond and create a small nature observation deck there.
“We do Yappy Hours periodically at the dog park – a Halloween themed Yappy Hour is coming up in October – as a socializing event for dogs and owners,” McCarthy says. “We have a 7 O’clock Club out there, where people who enjoy dogs meet each morning and develop friendships.”
WILLIAM F. DIERBERG MEDITATION PARK
A small but beautiful park is two-acre William F. Dierberg Meditation Park, at 13701 Olive Blvd., at River Valley Drive and Olive. The City worked in and around the adjacent Montgomery Bank development to put the park in.
“It features a large water fountain built by a Dierberg family donation, as well as a paved walking trail and seating areas to let people relax,” Geisel says. The City maintains various kinds of native plants there to aid in attracting butterflies.
CHESTERFIELD PUBLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PARKS
A unique cooperative park project includes the city’s public school parks, operated in conjunction with the Rockwood and Parkway school districts. They’re located at Chesterfield, Green Trails and River Bend Elementary Schools.
“These parks are on the school campuses but are made available to the public after hours,” Geisel explains. “We contributed to the capital improvement costs to make the playgrounds available to the broader community, but ongoing maintenance is the responsibility of the school districts.” All are less than an acre and were completed in the late 1990s. All those parks feature playground equipment like swings and slides.
MONARCH CHESTERFIELD LEVEE AND RIPARIAN TRAIL
The City’s Monarch Chesterfield Levee and the Riparian Trail get lots of users. The levee trail, at a little over nine miles and open since 2004, is along the Missouri River in Chesterfield valley and behind the Chesterfield Commons retail development, however, McCarthy says parts of it are closed for now due to the new bridge on Interstate 64 going in over the river. The Riparian Trail opened in 2011 and extends about a half mile, from Lydia Hill and Veterans Place, to loop into woods and come back out on Lydia Hill Drive.
“The levee trail is asphalt and was done cooperatively with the Great Rivers Greenway Organization, while the Riparian Trail has a compacted rock surface,” McCarthy says.
Michelle Keesal, Chair of the Parks and Recreation Citizens Advisory Committee, is also passionate about parks in Chesterfield.
“My degree is in Recreation and Park Administration, and I’m retired from being a planner with St. Louis County Parks; parks are my passion,” she says. “Being a Chesterfield resident for the last 20 years, it was only natural I get involved with their parks program.” She, too, praises the variety of park activities.
“I love the concerts at the Central Park Amphitheater, and I try get to as many as I can. The River’s Edge Park has a really nice trail that goes around the lake, where people can watch birds or reflect or get some great exercise. If the weather is nice, I like to take my bike out and ride the levee trail. Though I don’t have a dog anymore, I love to go to the Eberwein Dog Park and watch the dogs play. It’s hard to believe we have so many park amenities and so much wilderness park areas in Chesterfield.”