|Your voice is needed to protect a public icon|
We recently learned about an issue that should be of great concern to public land advocates. The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis-- more commonly known as the Gateway Arch-- faces the threat of commercialization and exploitation. This icon of architecture and landscape design memorializes westward expansion at the very place from which Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery began its journey.The Memorial belongs to the American public, is managed by the National Park Service, and is designated a National Historic Landmark.
A private foundation formed by the Danforth family of
St. Louis--as in former Sen. Jack Danforth--has been
trying to get legislation passed that would allow
a private trust to build unspecified developments on
public land where the Memorial is located. Although
the proposal is vague, a museum, restaurants and
other "amenities" have been mentioned in press
reports. The legislation--HR 7252, sponsored by
Missouri Rep. Clay--broadly allows for
private control of "one or more portions" of the
Memorial grounds. It would even remove the
Landmark status of the grounds to make development
The Memorial site does need work. Pedestrian access crosses four lanes of fast-moving traffic and the connectivity originally envisioned between the downtown area and the Memorial has never been realized. The Park Service (NPS) is amending its General Management Plan to look at alternatives for improvement.
It is not yet known what this will encompass, since it would begin with a design competition to vet ideas, but the concepts described in the NPS preferred alternative (Alternative 3) do not approach the intensity (nor include the privatization) provided for in the legislation. Indeed, the existing Visitor's Center and Museum of Westward Expansion were built underground, so as not to interfere with the integrity of the Arch and its landscape, and the site's landmark status limits what the NPS can do.
The scoping period for the environmental impact statement (EIS) is ongoing. We need you to contact the Park Service, expressing- even briefly- your interest in the Gateway Arch issue. Your comments will make a difference! It is vital that the NPS, Rep. Clay, and city leaders know citizens outside St. Louis care about the Gateway. Tell the NPS you oppose developments that would privatize, commercialize, or harm the integrity of the Memorial. For those of you willing to take further steps, you can request that the NPS place you on the mailing list for the project so that you can review the EIS when it is issued in early 2009.
Thank you for your action on behalf of public lands and this important piece of our cultural heritage!