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Great Rivers Greenway

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).

National Night Out event offers opportunity to learn about proposed North Central SBD

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For Children  Pastor James Ivan Jimmie Edwards Jim Whyte Jamila Nashid Great Rivers Greenway CWENSI Alexis Zotos 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy

On Tuesday October 2, approximately 400 people gathered on the 4200 block of Delmar to celebrate National Night Out. In addition to bringing a diverse group of neighbors together to socialize and celebrate community, that event provided an opportunity to inform residents about the benefits of a proposed new SBD, the North Central Special Business District (see map below).

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For Children  Pastor James Ivan Jimmie Edwards Jim Whyte Jamila Nashid Great Rivers Greenway CWENSI Alexis Zotos 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy   The boundaries for the proposed SBD stretch from Vandeventer west to Taylor, and from Finney south to Lindell, spanning the Delmar Divide.

18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy, who introduced a resolution in the Board of Aldermen to create the North Central Special Business District in September, is in the process of scheduling a public hearing on the proposed legislation.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For Children  Pastor James Ivan Jimmie Edwards Jim Whyte Jamila Nashid Great Rivers Greenway CWENSI Alexis Zotos 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy

Organizers who have been laying the groundwork for this initiative for the past two years include residents Eric Kyser, left, and Judith Arnold, middle, a 30-year resident who is a master level urban planner. In the photo above they are being interviewed by KMOV reporter and CWE resident Alexis Zotos.

Others residents who serve on the planning committee are Will Roth, Dana Scott-Person, Catherine Knights, and Vanessa Fischer.Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For Children  Pastor James Ivan Jimmie Edwards Jim Whyte Jamila Nashid Great Rivers Greenway CWENSI Alexis Zotos 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy

The poster above provided a succinct explanation about what an SBD is and what it does. Judith Arnold said that the overwhelming concern among residents gleaned from conversations or surveys is the need to address safety and security. Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For Children  Pastor James Ivan Jimmie Edwards Jim Whyte Jamila Nashid Great Rivers Greenway CWENSI Alexis Zotos 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy

A color-coded map of existing SBDs in the CWE. The proposed North Central SBD is shown in green.Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For Children  Pastor James Ivan Jimmie Edwards Jim Whyte Jamila Nashid Great Rivers Greenway CWENSI Alexis Zotos 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy

Left: Director of Public Safety Jimmie Edwards, left, and State Senator Jamila Nashid  welcomed the crowd. Right: Tiffanie Brooks Walker, creator of AKJ Jewelry and co-owner of Sho Off Car Wash at Olive & Newstead.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For Children  Pastor James Ivan Jimmie Edwards Jim Whyte Jamila Nashid Great Rivers Greenway CWENSI Alexis Zotos 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy

Top photo: Jim Whyte, Executive Director of the Central West End Neighborhood Security Initiative, speaking with Luke Henson, Community Development Manager on the staff at WUMCRC, and Judith Arnold. Bottom photo: Eric Kyser, Pastor James Ivan of Samaritan United Methodist Church, and Luciana Borbely.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For Children  Pastor James Ivan Jimmie Edwards Jim Whyte Jamila Nashid Great Rivers Greenway CWENSI Alexis Zotos 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy

Several organizations had informational booths at the event including the Job Corps and UMSL, above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For Children  Pastor James Ivan Jimmie Edwards Jim Whyte Jamila Nashid Great Rivers Greenway CWENSI Alexis Zotos 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy

Other exhibitors included Great Rivers Greenway, left, there to discuss the possible development of a new greenway along the Hodiamont Tracks. (Stop by Pop-Up Greenway on the Tracks Saturday 10/27 from 2 to 4 on the Hodiamont/Suburban tracks between Cabanne & Academy). Top right, 4300 Fairfax WestBelle Neighbors Association, middle, AARP and Women’s Voices Raised who offered free gun locks, and bottom, employees of AT&T.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For Children  Pastor James Ivan Jimmie Edwards Jim Whyte Jamila Nashid Great Rivers Greenway CWENSI Alexis Zotos 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy

Top photo: Three sisters gathered Girl Scout information. Bottom photo: A neighborhood Boy Scout troop paraded through the crowd.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For Children  Pastor James Ivan Jimmie Edwards Jim Whyte Jamila Nashid Great Rivers Greenway CWENSI Alexis Zotos 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy

Contemporary Art Museum staff members offered kids an opportunity to color a Gee’s Bend Quilt button. When I asked the young man in the photo if he knew what Gee’s Bend Quilts were, he said, “Yes, but the sample looks more like a Modigliani.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For Children  Pastor James Ivan Jimmie Edwards Jim Whyte Jamila Nashid Great Rivers Greenway CWENSI Alexis Zotos 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings For Children  Pastor James Ivan Jimmie Edwards Jim Whyte Jamila Nashid Great Rivers Greenway CWENSI Alexis Zotos 18th Ward Alderman Terry Kennedy

Students from the Jahfi West African Dance School waiting to perform, above, as the evening’s festivities drew to a close. Organizers were thrilled with the turnout and enthusiasm from those who stopped by. It’s hoped that the proposed SBD will be the catalyst for community engagement bridging the Delmar Divide, and for many more social occasions in the future.