Bringing the prairie to O’Fallon
New O’Day Park will focus on natural environments in partnership between the city of O’Fallon and the Missouri Department of Conservation
By Brett Auten
A city just shy of 100,000 residents will have an exclusive destination to immerse yourself in nature.
The city of O’Fallon has secured the funding and have begun the development of a new 55-acre park addition to its park system. Located on the north side of Highway DD just one mile west of Interstate 64, the new park will be called O’Day Park keeping the namesake of O’Day Creek, a small creek that flows through the property.
O’Fallon’s plan to provide O’Day Park – which is slated to open in 2019 – with natural meadows and wildflower areas received a significant boost recently from the Missouri Department of Conservation, which notified the city that it would receive a Community Conservation Grant Program matching grant of $30,000 for the O’Day Park Prairie Reconstruction project.
“It is going to take a lot of work to make it look natural,” Bob Deardeuff, O’Fallon’s Landscape Division Manager said. “A lot of the credit goes to the MDC grant. Its support is the reason we will get it done correctly, and we will get it done right on the first attempt.”
The grant calls for the city to control invasive species in the project area; seed at least eight acres in O’Day Park with native grasses and plants, develop and implement a 15-year, and long-term management plan to maintain habitat improvements. For its part, O’Fallon will provide $27,000 in matching funds or in-kind assistance to acquire or rent specialized equipment, pay salaries and provide other expenses to support the project.
According to MDC Community Forester Danny Moncheski, the au naturel park model have proven to work in St. Charles County with educational setups at Broemmelsiek and Quail Ridge.
“It is becoming more of a realization that urban areas can be for conservation,” Mocheski said. “We can create it in our backyards.”
Both Deardeuff and Mocheski heaped praise upon Erin Shank, an MDC Community Conservation Grant Coordinator, for her involvement in making the grant a reality.
The plan is in place to turn O’Day Park into something unlike any other in the O’Fallon’s parks and recreation system.
O’Day Park will stay away from the human footprint as much as possible. The park will pass on lighted, irrigated athletic fields and instead opt for an intense on focus on maintaining the sustainable character of the O’Day landscape of wooded areas, a flowing natural creek, and prairie areas. The master plan has incorporated some features that officials are banking on will draw park users again and again to the property.
“Most do not know what a true prairie looks like,” Deardeuff said. “We want to attract people who are interested in getting in touch with nature and wouldn’t mind if a frog or two jumped out across from them while on a walking path.”
Among the features included will be walking and hiking trails through prairie and wooded areas, overnight camping for small groups such as scout troops or class field trips and a large indoor activity center to host groups of up to 300 guests, all in conjunction with an outdoor amphitheater.
It’s not as if O’Day Park will turn its back on playground equipment, just don’t expect to see the more conventional types. An outdoor adventure play with flowing water and play structures that include a spider web climber inside a “cave”, stump jumpers, log and rope climbing challenges, and of course swings and slides since their everyone’s favorites.
Natural biodiversity is lacking in the area wrought with pear trees, honeysuckle, and blackberry thickets. The O’Day project will employ measures to create and enhance terrestrial habitats offering to nest and escape cover, flowers for pollinators, and a stable source of food for wildlife in a native ecosystem, with the result of improving the diversity the plant and animal population.
“It’s kind of like trying to get rid of all of the poodles but not the German Shepards and leading them over with a leash,” Deardeuff said.
For more information, including maps and renderings, visit www.ofallon.mo.us/parks&rec.