A repost: Young parents mobilize to create Kennedy Park and CWE Families & Friends

Since there are so many new residents in the neighborhood, I thought it would be of interest to republish this 2011 post describing the origins of Samuel Kennedy Park (east of Euclid, where Olive and Washington merge), which in turn led to the formation of CWE Families & Friends.

In 2006 a group of CWE parents saw the need for a toddler playground in the neighborhood, identified a site, and figured out a way to make it happen. There are many people to credit with the charm of Kennedy Park (they are mentioned below), but the initial idea, the determination and grit that it took to get it done belongs to those young residents who lived on neighboring streets. 

While that initial group of toddlers has long since grown up, their parents’ efforts will continue to delight CWE families for years to come. 

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids  Samuel Kennedy Park Regional Arts Commission Lewisites David Tillinghast CWE Families & Friends   For those of you who have visited Kennedy Park or pass by it on your way to Bowood Farms, you may have forgotten that it was ever anything but a children’s playground. Years ago an abandoned, derelict gas station occupied the triangle where Olive and Washington intersect. After the site was acquired and properly cleaned up (there are strict EPA guidelines for remediating the ground under gas station properties), it was turned into a grass covered baseball-themed art park with a batter’s box at the apex of the triangle, and a bleacher section painted by artists Bill Kreplin and Charlie Blood on the wall at the east end. This initial round of improvements was spearheaded by the Central West End Association under the able direction of Jack Byrne, with critical assistance from then Alderman Dan McGuire and funding provided by two local banks and a Federal grant.

In early 2006 a group of committed young parents, new to the neighborhood, approached my husband with the idea of converting the park into a full-fledged playground. This determined group, which eventually organized as CWE Families & Friends, succeeded in obtaining generous grants from Gateway Foundation and 18th Ward Alderman Samuel Kennedy which was the catalyst to obtaining funding from the City of St. Louis Parks Department through the Metro Park Tax Fund. The group was then able to hire local landscape architect Anne Lewis to assist in turning the concept into reality. During the design process the original triangle was extended 60 feet to the west, which allowed room for the addition of an art component.

With financial and administrative assistance from the Regional Arts Commission, a national competition was conducted, resulting in selection of a proposal by North Carolina artist David Tillinghast to install his dome shaped concrete sculpture in the expanded area (see mound below). The addition of a clever hardscape design, extensive landscaping (designed by Lewisites and installed by Bowood Farms), playground equipment, whimsical iron fencing and, in November of 2007, a water feature (see first photo above), have turned Kennedy Park into the “go to” spot for neighborhood parents and their young children.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids  Samuel Kennedy Park Regional Arts Commission Lewisites David Tillinghast CWE Families & Friends   Ten days ago the water feature was turned on for the summer season. That’s when I found a young family who had just moved back to St. Louis from Cape Cod (which seems like the wrong direction at this time of year). The young mother told me her husband got a job here, and they are living with her parents while they look for a house, which they hope will be in the Central West End. In the meantime, they have discovered the park, and have met several other young families while playing there.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids  Samuel Kennedy Park Regional Arts Commission Lewisites David Tillinghast CWE Families & Friends   David Tillinghast’s sculpture, which I will tell you about another time, is shown above, just beyond the fountain. Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids  Samuel Kennedy Park Regional Arts Commission Lewisites David Tillinghast CWE Families & Friends   Only one sister at a time can fit on the concrete balls that are placed around the playground.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids  Samuel Kennedy Park Regional Arts Commission Lewisites David Tillinghast CWE Families & Friends   Barefoot in the park, which is just about perfect for a lazy summer afternoon in the CWE.

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