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Dardenne Prairie explores expanding city park facilities, recreation programs

A portion of the Dardenne Greenway, part of the Great Rivers Greenway network

Dardenne Prairie officials are evaluating expanding their parks and recreation facilities along with whether and how the city can pay for them.

The city’s Board of Aldermen talked about park and recreation facility expansion at its July 5 meeting and is expected to hold further discussions at a board workshop at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 19 at city hall, 2032 Hanley Road.  The general meeting at 7 p.m. on July 19 also is expected include drawings depicting some ideas for parks and recreation expansion. Both meetings are open to the public.

Mayor David Zucker said city officials want to establish a more “broad-based” recreational program serving all segments and ages in the community. He said the city’s outdoor park facilities are heavily used during good weather and that park usage shows a need for more playground facilities, pavilions and open spaces. However, he also said the city’s recreational program still is largely geared toward younger people. Additional facilities would provide both outdoor and indoor venues for more activities.

Additional facilities would provide both outdoor and indoor venues for more activities. Some of the options being explored include approaching the St. Charles Community College about acquiring the former Barat Academy gymnasium and sports fields adjacent to Barathaven Park. The academy property could be developed into a 13-acre that could offer indoor and outdoor programs year-round including a summer camp for kids, officials said.

Another option is to develop a community center on 10 acres at the corner of Post Road and Hwy. N that the city owns and has been trying to sell.  The center could provide a venue for indoor sports, classes, public meetings and other activities

A third option would be to refrain from doing a major park expansion and use available general fund revenue for more construction and repair of city streets.

Choosing either of the first two options could cost the city more than $5 million. Zucker said to pay for them, voters would have to approve a half-cent sale tax increase.  That “Parks & Storm Water Tax” would pay for the debt service to build a park and provide revenue to pay for expanding recreational programs and park maintenance.

If adopted the city’s sales tax rate still would be lower than neighboringLake Saint Louis, Wentzville and most of O’Fallon. Some areas have higher taxes because of special taxing districts that allow high rates to pay for infrastructure improvements.

The city also is exploring the use of some form of bond financing as part of financing any new park facilities or improvements.

Zucker said the city would not pursue either of the two options without voter approval of the sales tax, a measure that could be placed on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.  The board has yet to make a determination as to whether to put that measure on the ballot. The deadline for placing ballot measures on the November ballot is 5 p.m. on Aug. 29.

The city already provides outdoor recreation to small children at City Park adjacent to city hall, as well as youth baseball at a nearby ball field. The city is committed to upgrading the ballfields near city hall, which are presently owned by the Dardenne Athletic Association. Transferring ownership to the city as planned will include paving a gravel parking lot, improved lighting and building new restrooms.

Youth soccer and cricket facilities and hiking are offered at Barathaven and Bluebird Meadow parks along Dardenne Creek. There are plans to add baseball and softball in late summer and fall.

The city also provides limited social gathering at City Hall once a month and some outdoor music concerts and movies.

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