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Birders Warn Proposed Treetop Course Threatens St. Louis Habitat, Bird Species

St. Louis bird enthusiasts and conservationists plead with St. Louis County Council members to reject a treetop adventure course proposed for Creve Coeur Park, which originally was targeted to go in Greensfelder Park in Wildwood.

A spokesperson from the St. Louis Audubon Society was critical of a plan revealed on Tuesday to move the location of a proposed "treetop adventure park" from Greensfelder Park in Wildwood, to a more urban setting of the county, Creve Coeur Park.

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley offered the plan at Tuesday's county council meeting after the original plan at Greensfelder Park was pushed back by resistance from equestrians and other opponents.

The local Audubon Society's Jean Favara told council members the intrusion of a treetop park, which would include a ropes course and zip lines, would threaten the fragile wildlife and bird habitat being restored there. The treetop adventure park is proposed by a company called "GoApe!"

"Creve Coeur Park is a critical environment for migrating bird species currently facing habitat decline," said Favara, a Ballwin resident and conservation vice president for the organization.

The organization's executive director, Mitch Leachman, told Patch on Thursday their concerns and opposition to a treetop adventure course in Creve Couer Park are simple and direct:

  1. While Go Ape! spokespeople bend over backward to acknowledge how protective their company is of trees, there is no acknowledgement of the obvious impacts that people wondering through the area tree canopy will have on birds, including nesting and foraging ramifications.
  2. Public outreach, especially to those living closely around the Creve Coeur Park, basically has been non-existent and even less than it was for the Greensfelder Park location. He said he just was informed about the project on Saturday (and not from the county parks and recreation staff), three days before the agreement legislation already was to be read at the county council meeting. 
  3. They find this type of development frustrating, particularly given that several thousand volunteers helped develop a couple dozen habitat projects at Creve Coeur Park on 25 acres over the last two years, including areas west of the Maryland Heights Expressway. Most recently they organized and funded habitat restoration in the upper park. He said the proposed treetop course is "a stone's throw away" from the area they just restored in conjunction with county park staffers.
  4. With a 300-acre lake and power boat races, there is no need to prompt more visitation at the Creve Coeur Park. With millions already visiting that park, it seems more practical to put a treetop course into one of the other, struggling county areas to help drive traffic.

The local chapter of the Audubon Society has nearly 3,000 members across the St. Louis Metro Region that includes portions of 11 counties in Missouri and Illinois.

Society members also noted in a letter to the county that the Creve Coeur location is within a nationally designated Important Bird Area.

Leachman said they are not opposed to recreation in St. Louis County Parks.

"This GoApe! adventure course will take place in the actual tree canopy—a type of disturbance that can disrupt the life cycle of vulnerable species," he said.

With no environmental assessment completed to evaluate the impacts on the flora and fauna of the park currently planned, he said at a minimum, they request one be done before approval of installation. 

RELATED ARTICLES

  • County 'Goes Ape' to Help Save Greensfelder Park in Wildwood
  • District 7 County Councilman Weighs in on Proposed Treetop Park
  • Online Petitioners Oppose Treetop Obstacle Course in Wildwood
  • Treetop Course Builder Moves from Wildwood to Creve Coeur

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