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Green Efforts: St. Louis

In the previous “Green Efforts: Intro” article, we let off at Greensburg, Kansas. We now pick up a couple ball tosses over to St. Louis, Missouri.

St. Louis is a city varied by culture and historical influence. Its lush fabric contains rich architectual heritage merged with a progressive downtown that illustrates the skyline. The city is punctuated by the Gateway Arch, which can be seen as an exclamation of the city’s revival.

Despite its size, St. Louis has a low cost of living and in addition offers many free activities and attractions that can educate visitors just as well as they can entertain them. These are a few of the reasons that, despite its previous rough patch, St. Louis is beginning to rank amongst world class cities, not only for its on-going rehabilitation but its growing dedication to green practices and institutions.

Public Attractions – Of its many attractions and activities, most are free of charge. Including the city’s zoo, science center, art museum, and history museum – all located within the 1,300 acres of Forest Park. The Park is an attraction in its own right, hosting free Shakespearean theatre in the warmer months, among other seasonal and year-round activities. Attractions that do charge entry fees often keep costs in the five to ten dollar range. This enables citizens of all incomes to be enriched by culture and entertainment at little to no cost, so they can save their money for necessities.

Not only are most of St. Louis’s attractions inexpensive, many function as conservation sites and centers for environmental education. The Science Center devotes itself to educating visitors about ecology and the environment, focusing a great deal on environmental change. Thus, exposing kids to important topics at young age. A little ways away, the St. Louis zoo continues to work on the conservation of animal species and understands its value should extend that of family entertainment. Other conservation sites include the Missouri Botanical Garden. In addition to hosting plant species from around the globe, the garden is currently working to catalog plants and birds found in rain forests.

Neighborhood Amenities – St. Louis is often called a city of neighborhoods, and in many cases this is true. These neighborhoods are not just residential pockets within the city, but vibrant communities of their own right. While some are a work in progress, many have their own local economy thriving along the central arteries, including neighborhood grocers, schools, apparel boutiques, pharmacies, pet shops, restaurants, bars, and sidewalk cafes. Because of the inter-neighborhood access to necessities like food, clothing, and entertainment, there is little need to drive to the nearest super center; therein saving gas and creating a stronger sense of community as time and money is spent locally.

Public Transport – Serviced by the MetroLink light-rail system and MetroBus, St. Louis has some of the best public transport in the country. With stations dotted throughout the city, the MetroLink and MetroBus routes span from East St. Louis (which spills across the Missouri boarder into Illinois), to the neighboring city of Clayton, MO to the west.

Use Of Vacant Lots –  As residents began to flock to the suburbs in the mid-century, St. Louis was blemmished with multiple vacant lots. However, life is being brought to these lots in the form of community gardens. Adding to these efforts Gateway Greening, a local organization educating residents in urban agriculture, has helped start and support 200 community gardens in the area.

Room For Improvement
Despite a number of highly walk-able neighborhoods, the city would benefit from creating spaces between neighborhoods that promote safety and accessibility to pedestrians.

What Can Be Learned From St. Louis
With some exceptions, St. Louis has done well inventing new – sometimes better – uses for former buildings and vacant lots. By turning former hotels into luxury apartment buildings and plugging vacant lots with gardens, St. Louis is finding ways to turn its weak spots into places of interest. Other cities would do well to follow…

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