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Hodiamont Tracks Clean-up Day reaps more rewards than anticipated

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

On a hot Saturday morning early this month, a large group of volunteers gathered at Lane Tabernacle CME Church at 910 N. Newstead to “Clean up and Green up the Hodiamont Tracks.” The Tracks, a 3.5 mile former streetcar/bus right-of-way just north of Delmar, is being considered for development by Great Rivers Greenway, the public agency that connects the region with a system of greenways.

Residents of the 7 neighborhoods that border the Tracks, which extend from Vandeventer to Skinker (near Gwen Giles Park), have expressed overwhelming support for the plan. When considering an extension to their system, a major concern of Great Rivers Greenway is ongoing maintenance. To demonstrate how seriously the affected neighborhoods want the project to be adopted, Judith Arnold, a resident of the Vandeventer neighborhood, and a committee of about 20 people, organized the clean-up day for August 10, and sent out a call for volunteers.  Judith hoped for 200 people, 209 answered the call.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

Mayor Lyda Krewson was there for the kickoff, middle above, and extended her gratitude to the volunteers for their participation. There were residents from the 7 neighborhoods that border the Tracks, groups from Churches United in the 18th Ward, several Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops, staff from Great Rivers Greenway, Brightside St. Louis, and Mission STL.  I met a mother and her 10 year-old daughter who drove in from Fenton to participate after seeing the event on local news. And a few of us were there because we recognize what a positive impact the development of this greenway just north of us will have on the entire community.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

From left, 26th Ward Alderman Shameem Hubbard, whose Ward includes blocks that border the Tracks, and 1st District Congressman William Lacy Clay. Congressman Clay said he grew up on a block of Cabanne, which is in Hubbard’s Ward.

Others who came to show support for the event included 18th Ward Alderman Jesse Todd, and 28th Ward Alderwoman Heather Navarro and her family.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

Volunteer Coordinator & Event Organizer Judith Arnold (at podium above right) introduced 9 field supervisors (standing behind her), who were each assigned a section of the Tracks and a team of volunteers.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

I got one of the plum assignments with a group that included Congressman Lacy Clay and 22 members of his Congressional Youth Cabinet, which was a wonderful experience. We were charged with picking up trash along the Tracks from Kingshighway east to Taylor.

I was impressed that the Congressman stayed for the duration of the cleanup and worked as hard as anyone. He stopped occasionally to chat with residents who would do a double-take and then walk over to visit, including Pastor Clinton Stancil (in white shirt above) from nearby Wayman AME Church, who kindly invited us over for barbecue.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

The photo above shows Congressman Clay, his Congressional Youth Cabinet (Jasmina Hadzic in red hat is in charge of the group), and several other volunteers wearing their “Clean up” tees. (I’m deep in the background.)

Arnold arranged for the City’s Refuse Division to collect bulk items in advance of the clean-up day (illegal dumping is a persistent problem along the Hodiamont Tracks), and the Forestry Division to clear overgrowth and honeysuckle.

It’s amazingly quiet along the Hodiamont Tracks—almost like a country road. On that summer morning there wasn’t much more than the sound of birds and humming insects in the brush, which allowed for some nice conversations with my teammates. There was an opportunity to thank  Congressman Clay for sponsoring H.R. 3435, a bill in Congress that would give cities freedom to pass their own gun restrictions, and we chatted about how proud he is of the young people in his Youth Cabinet.

There was such a positive feeling among the people who worked together that day. Doing physical work for a common cause brought strangers together. It really is true that we are all basically alike and have shared interests and concerns. We want safe neighborhoods, good education for our children, clean streets, and most of all a solution to rampant gun violence.

If you haven’t tired of reading by now, here is one more story:

In preparation for this clean up day my husband Jim made many trips along the length of the Tracks to take photos so Judith Arnold would know how many volunteers she needed to assign to each section.

On each trip he waved to the same group of people sitting in the shade on a trash-strewn stretch of the Tracks just west of Kingshighway. Apparently, they had gotten word that there was going to be a cleanup. To his great surprise Jim discovered that they had pitched in and transformed the area. When he stopped to thank them for their efforts they asked about the t-shirts they had seen on the volunteers. He said he would see what he could do and returned later with a shirt for each of them, which they proudly wore.

Bottom line: The collective effort of so many was nothing short of inspirational. Kudos to Judith Arnold for her capable leadership and to all sponsoring organizations for their contributions.

P.S. – Congressman Clay’s Congressional Youth Cabinet is looking for the “Next Generation of Leaders in Missouri’s First District.” For more information on this opportunity, click 2019 2020 CYC Brochure. There is also a Congressional Internship Program for undergraduates and graduate students seeking professional experience while earning academic credit through their university. For more info, click Internship Pamphlet Fall 2019 Spring 2020

And finally, I’ll leave you with this comment from Congressman Clay’s local staffer Jasmina Hadzic in response to my thanking her for sending info for this post. It is another example of how the Clean up Day gave me so much more than I could ever give:

  “I feel obligated to serve the United States government and the party that saved thousands of refugees who were displaced by the war in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Similarly, I am grateful to Saint Louis and it’s citizens for welcoming us in 1997 and for giving us the chance to make a positive impact.  Without a doubt, I want to do all I can to set a good example for our youth, and make our city a better place to live.”

Join in Clean up/Green up of Hodiamont Tracks

The following post describes an opportunity for community involvement that I thought readers should know about. Next Saturday, August 10, from 9 to noon, volunteers are needed to help “Clean up and Green Up the Hodiamont Tracks.”

The purpose of the event is to stimulate interest in the development of the abandoned Metro (Bi-State) right-of-way as part of Great Rivers Greenway’s network of trails throughout the region.

From the Great Rivers Greenway website:

“The Hodiamont Tracks are an inactive space that have the potential to become a greenway where people could walk, jog, ride a bicycle, push a stroller, use a wheelchair or have a picnic.”

Next Saturday’s community-wide effort is spearheaded by Judith Arnold, a resident of the Vandeventer neighborhood, who initially gathered a group of about 20 women from the 7 neighborhoods that border the Tracks to get the effort going. Since that first meeting in early July, the group has expanded to include an additional 20 or so organizers.

So far, about 160 volunteers have signed up for the project. Arnold is hoping for a total of 200 people to volunteer and register. See more information at end of the post on how to participate.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway

I am on the organizing committee and have driven the length of the 3.5 mile Tracks, which were originally a trolley line and later a bus route, and taken pictures to give you an idea of what current conditions look like. It’s a mixed bag, ranging from surprisingly green and quiet sections to littered/overgrown dumping grounds.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway

Committee members who live adjacent to the Tracks lament that illegal dumping of trash in their backyards is a common occurrence.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway

The City of St. Louis Forestry and Refuse Divisions have been providing preliminary services in advance of the cleanup day, and will be out in force to assist on August 10. The task that day will be to put the finishing touches on the cleanup effort and to demonstrate that there is broad community support for the development of a new greenway along the abandoned route.

“One of the major concerns is ongoing maintenance,” said Judith Arnold. “We’re beginning to tackle this issue with a cleanup day in hopes that residents living near the Tracks will continue to maintain what will become a greenway.”Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway

The Tracks begin just west of Vandeventer Ave. in the Covenant Blu-Grand neighborhood, and continue westward through the Vandeventer, Lewis Place, Fountain Park, Academy/Sherman, Visitation Park and the West End neighborhoods, terminating at Gwen Giles Park near the city limits. (see map here)Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway

The photo above shows new buildings under construction on the Ranken Technical College campus, which also borders the Hodiamont Tracks.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway

Close to Skinker Blvd., near the western terminus of the Tracks, there’s a charming neighborhood in the City’s 26th Ward that was a total surprise to me. Gardens and manicured lawns occupy common areas adjacent to the tracks, and many of the houses and surrounding yards look like they could be on a country lane.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway   The Ruth Porter Mall, which starts at DeBaliviere and Delmar, intersects the Hodiamont Tracks several blocks north and offers an example of what the Tracks could become.

Though 95% of residents who participated in an engagement study conducted by Great Rivers Greenway say they want a greenway along the Hodiamont Tracks, the decision to include the 3.5 mile stretch as part of the Greenway system is not a done deal. If the decision is made to proceed, residents see the potential for increased property values, enhanced safety, and beautification.

Arnold is joined in leadership efforts by Tom Schweiss (Great Rivers Greenway), Constance Siu (North Newstead Association), Todd Martin (Mission STL) and others.

Volunteers are scheduled to meet at Lane Tabernacle CME Church, 910 N. Newstead, Saturday, August 10 at 9 a.m. to get their assignments. Gloves, rakes, shovels etc. will be provided by Operation Brightside. All participants are invited to return to the church at noon for a picnic lunch and celebration of a job well done.

To volunteer, or for more information and to register, visit Clean Up & Green Up on Facebook, or an eventbrite page (here).

The Magic House @ M.A.D.E. is open

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

The Magic House opened its satellite location at M.A.D.E.  yesterday, June 7, at 5127 Delmar (between Kingshighway & Union). It’s located on the second floor of the 33,000 s.f. maker space, “a place where St. Louis designers create and collaborate,” which opened in late November 2018.

A veritable techy wonderland of interactive experiences awaits those ages 3 to 13—at least that is what The Magic House @ M.A.D.E.’s brochure says.  But when I spoke with The Magic House’s Chief Administrative Officer Carrie Hutchcraft on Wednesday, during a preview day for members,  she explained that kids ages 6 to 13 will be their “sweet spot” at the satellite location. Younger siblings are certainly welcome to come along, and there are plenty of things for them to do, but the activities on Delmar are STEAM focused (science, technology, education, arts & mathematics), whereas the Kirkwood location is geared toward younger children.

Hutchcraft added: “Middle schoolers think they are ‘too old’ for the Kirkwood location.” From what I observed, they will be happily engaged as soon as they walk through the doors of The Magic House @ M.A.D.E.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

M.A.D.E. was founded by Doug Auer and Jim McKelvey, who are responsible for Third Degree Glass Factory located across the street. McKelvey is perhaps best known as a co-creator of Square.

Read more about M.A.D.E. on the website here and on an earlier post here.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

At a strategic planning meeting in 2016, the board of The Magic House mandated that the organization should stretch its reach beyond its Kirkwood facility and open a satellite location in north St. Louis. The Magic House had been working closely with the St. Louis Public Schools for 30 years, but the board felt they could and should do more.

The board’s objective became to open a satellite experience in north St. Louis, thereby offering accessibility to its programs to a broader community. Auer and McKelvey had worked previously with Dennis Lower, head of  the Cortex Innnovation Community, on creating M.A.D.E. after the closing of Tech Shop in Cortex. Together they determined to create a new facility in its current location on Delmar. Happily for those of us who live nearby, that vision has been fully realized.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

In theory, according to Carrie Hutchcraft, the activities available at The Magic House @ M.A.D.E. are similar to what’s available downstairs at M.A.D.E.  There are 4 distinct areas of learning experiences, as shown on the banners above. The hope is that as kids learn from their exposure to The Magic House @ M.A.D.E., they will “graduate” and become members of M.A.D.E. (downstairs) in high school.

Some of those activities that are sure to thrill are shown in the photographs that follow:Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

As I looked at the learning opportunities it occurred to me that these activities are inter-generational, and that parents and grandparents might also enjoy learning how to code a robot to move, or create a stop motion video.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

The entry fee is $5 per person, starting at age 1. However, family membership for a year is a reasonable $50. Hours at the new location are posted above and correspond to the hours at the Kirkwood location.  A display listing the generous donors occupies a wall in the new space.  Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture For kids Services Web/Tech  The Magic House @ MADE Jim McKelvey Doug Auer Dennis Lower Carrie Hutchcraft

In 2014-15 when Mayor Lyda Krewson was the 28th Ward Alderwoman, many CWEnders worked with her to cultivate the sunflower garden on a property across the street from M.A.D.E. Although it was intended that the Sunflower Project would both beautify that section of Delmar and inspire others to think about future possibilities, I doubt anyone imagined what would blossom nearby in such short order.

Progress is often frustratingly slow, but when there are people with the means and the intentions to contribute to the community, good things spring up. Thanks to Doug Auer, Jim McKelvey and the board of The Magic House for all that they’ve done for the neighborhood and the City of St. Louis.

The Magic House @ M.A.D.E., 5127 Delmar. Limited parking is available on a lot just to the west of the building, and there is free parking on Delmar. The lot to the east does not belong to M.A.D.E.  Summer hours: Monday through Saturday 9:30 to 5:30, Sunday 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.