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St. Charles County parks usage continue to be high as new parks open

Veterans Tribute Park opening day 1- County Parks photo

Veterans Tribute Park opening day [St. Charles County Parks photo]

Finding a lonely, out-of-the-way spot to ride a bicycle or commune with nature is still very possible at all St. Charles County parks, but it may be getting harder.

That’s because the county’s 15 parks are attracting a lot of people who use the parks’ variety of unique attractions and amenities. This year [through October], county officials estimate there have been more than 1.3 million people visiting the parks – 1,307,839 people to be exact.

One way county officials count visitors is to track the number of vehicles in the parks and multiply by 2.5.

Veterans Tribute Park

Visitation came up at the Oct. 29 County Council meeting when Councilman Mike Elam [District 3] commended the Parks and Recreation Department for its work in opening The Park at New Melle Lakes and Veterans Tribute Park this fall.

“The parks department really needs to be commended for the great job you guys have done,” Elam told Parks and Recreation Director Ryan Graham. “I wanted to give you an opportunity to take a bow if you will.”

Graham received a round of applause before sharing that, during the weekend Veterans Tribute Park was dedicated [Oct. 20-21], an estimated 15,000 people came to the park – and crowds have been steady since then. On a Tuesday night in October, Graham said there were 187 vehicles in the park.

County Executive Steve Ehlmann asked, “which park is it where they caught the big fish?”

“New Melle,” Graham replied.

“There’s a tip for you,” Ehlmann said to those at the meeting.

Veterans Tribute Park

Veterans Tribute Park

After the meeting, Graham said attendance figures are on course for Veterans Tribute Park becoming one of the county’s most popular parks, a title now held by Quail Ridge Park in Wentzville.

“People are biking in, walking in – there is a tremendous amount of use,” Graham said, of Veterans Tribute Park. According to county officials, Veterans Tribute Park has had 53,600 visitors since it soft-opened to the public on Oct. 13.

Located on 120 acres at Pitman Hill and Kisker roads, the park is the former Sammelmann Farm and Homestead. About 90 acres have been developed with a destination playground for children of all abilities, a walking and bike trail system, dog park and fishing lakes.

The Parks at New Melle, 400 Foristell Road, has 3.7 miles of paved trails, a 26-acre lake, disc golf course and picnic areas. Since it opened, on  Sept. 29, county officials say it has had 21,881 visitors.

The third park the county opened this year is Riverside Park, a 7.73-acre park along the Mississippi River that has been visited by about 4,000 people since it opened on Aug. 18.  The park, which provides boating access to the Mississippi River, has been closed due to flooding for about a month.

The county’s park system began to be developed in earnest after county voters approved a use tax in 1997 for property acquisition, operations, and park development.  Along with 15 parks, the county has 3,000 acres of parkland.

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