St. Louis, MO – Without a doubt, Missouri has some of the best state parks in the country. With well over 18 million visitors each year, MO state parks have been ranked five separate times as one of the top four state park systems in the nation. But the parks are beginning to slip in disrepair. Aging sewer systems, worn down roads and trails, and moss-covered buildings are becoming everyday issues and accumulated backlog of over $400 million in repairs and maintenance.
With a bond issue coming up that would allocate a minimum of $40 million to state parks, St. Louis environmental leaders and advocates, as well as Saint Louis University students and faculty, joined Environment Missouri to kick off their State Parks campaign. In this rally of support, Environment Missouri released a fact sheet that details the impact that state parks have on the environment, the economy, and the well being of local citizens. Speakers included Environment Missouri state advocate, Stuart Keating, Professor of Environmental & Occupational Health, Chris King, and Theresa Reynolds, a Junior at Saint Louis University.
“It is truly inspiring to see our local leaders stand up for our parks,” said Environment Missouri state advocate Stuart Keating. “Now, more than ever before, we need leaders on all levels to speak out about importance of state parks on our health and our environment.”
Offering further perspective, Dr. King explained that the “effects of inactivity cost us billions in health care dollars each year. Access to walking, hiking, and biking trails has been determined to influence levels of physical activity.” He also cited research indicating that the condition of parks influences people’s likelihood of using them. Unfortunately, the Katy Trail needs $48.8 million in improvements to the trail surface, stressed bridges and aging culverts if it is to remain in usable condition.
Theresa Reynolds, who is president of Saint Louis University’s Wilderness Adventure Club, articulated the importance of these free and accessible state parks for students. “Missouri parks allow students the chance to get out of the city. We go on hikes, trail runs, camping trips and hang out in the parks whenever we get the chance. We’ve gone on trail runs in Castlewood and challenged ourselves with their very vertical trails… It would be a great loss to SLU students and the St. Louis community if these parks were neglected by our legislature.”
“Our state parks are not getting the attention they deserve. That is why we’re asking Missourians from across the state to call on their legislators to make sure our parks receive the funds they need,” said Keating. “We know that if enough people raise their voices in support of our state parks, they will remain natural treasures for future generations to enjoy.”
State Advocate Stuart Keating with Dr. Christopher King, professor of Environmental Health at St. Louis University