Making parks better

St. Louis County Parks Foundation receives statewide award for contributing to the betterment of parks throughout St. Louis County
By Charlotte Beard

Over the past three years one foundation has been at the forefront of securing funding for various park and recreation initiatives and the Missouri Park and Recreation Association (MPRA) has recognized them for their efforts. On Feb. 28, MPRA presented one of six Citation Awards to the St. Louis County Parks Foundation at the association’s annual conference in Branson, Missouri. Tom Ott, Assistant Director and Ginny McCook, Vice President, both representatives of the Foundation, accepted the award in the absence of President Mark Ohlendorf.
“The benefit that comes out of receiving the award is that others are gaining a little bit of awareness of the foundation and what we’re trying to do,” shared Ohlendorf. “We have a lot of good plans for the future.”
Gary Gates, Executive Director for MPRA shared that the association presents six Citation Awards each year. This year the St. Louis County Parks Foundation was one of two recipients to receive an award going to an organization.
“There are three different types of citations you can have: an individual, an organization or parks and recreation agency,” stated Gates.
The annual Citation Award, which was also received by St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation in 1992 for an award made to an agency, has specific criteria for how it is awarded. Gates shared that eligible candidates consists of any not-for-profit or business organization that has made an outstanding contribution to recreation and/or parks as follows: preparing and sponsoring recreation and/or parks legislation, promoting recreation and/or parks on all levels, providing a grant of cash, land, bequest, or such contributions of considerable magnitude in the furtherance of parks and recreation in the state of Missouri. Awardees are nominated by a MPRA member. The awards committee that reviews the applications is made up of a chairperson and four regional directors which are representative of Missouri divided into four regions.
Since 2015 when the St. Louis County Parks Foundation began, it has raised funds to donate a new fountain in Tilles Park, Faust Park, and Spanish Lake Park as well as playground equipment at Tilles, Faust, Bee Tree and Suson Parks. In addition, they raised funds for the placement of a new gym divider curtain at the North County Recreation Complex and three shade structures at the Aquatic Center, the Pavilion at Lemay, and in Jefferson Barracks Park. Most recently they orchestrated the placement of the splash pad at Castle Point Park along with the completion of last summer’s opening of Spanish Lake Park’s Family Fitness Trail funded in part by a $50,000 grant from the Gateway Foundation.
“We are committed to making new recreational opportunities available for the entire St. Louis County population,” said Ohlendorf. “Being recognized statewide for our work is extremely gratifying for our volunteers and for our funding partners.”

Ohlendorf shared that they already have another project in the works. The foundation has plans to place a gaga ball pit in one of the North County parks.

“It’s a new way to play kickball, Ohlendorf stated. “We built one last year in Ohlendorf West Park and it’s really popular. There are kids out there every day using it. So, the parks department came to us and asked if we would build one up in North County in one of the parks.”
The park has not yet been determined. Ohlendorf shared that a gaga pit costs approximately $8,000. The foundation is currently in the fundraising stage to place the pit once the location has been determined. Ohlendorf hopes the pit is in place by the start of this summer.
Sources state that the foundation is also working on a strategic plan that will help provide direction in conjunction with the completed Master Plan for the St. Louis County Parks Department.