Birdwatching on the Greenways

Birdwatching is a hobby that combines fresh air, exercise, and beautiful scenery wrapped up in a treasure hunt. Not only that, birdwatching has no age limitations, requires minimal equipment and gives everyone the opportunity to be a citizen-scientist.  The only word of caution from experienced birdwatchers is that once you start, it can become addicting!

Greenways are great places for birdwatching. In fact, several have been recognized by the Audubon Society as “important bird areas.” We asked the St. Louis Audubon Society to recommend the best greenways for spotting a wide variety of birds along with some tips for beginners.


Best Greenways for Birdwatching

Fee Fee Greenway: Aquaport to Creve Coeur Park

The best place for spotting birds along this greenway is the area from McKelvey Woods to Creve Coeur Park. It meanders through what is known as an “edge habitat”—the space between a developed area and a natural habitat. The greenway’s location on a prairie flood plain near the Missouri River provides food and refuge for many migrating waders, waterfowl, and shorebirds.

Meramec Greenway near the Al Foster Trail

The section of the Meremec Greenway near the Al Foster trail lies within a bottomland forest and is considered an important bird area by the Audubon Society. It provides habitat for breeding forest birds, such as the Red-shouldered Hawk and Prothonotary Warbler. You can find all 107 species of birds that have been recorded in this birding “hotspot” on ebird.

River des Peres Greenway at Carondelet Park

Carondelet Park is on the eastern end of the River des Peres Greenway. This historic, 179-acre park provides stopover habitat for many migrating species in spring and fall. It also provides some breeding habitat for many birds excluded from the surrounding urban landscape (e.g., hawks and owls). The Audubon Society recently recorded 29 different species of birds on a single early-morning beginner bird walk in Carondelet Park!

Busch Greenway: Katy Trail to Missouri Research Park to August A. Busch Conservation Area

A good portion of the Busch Greenway passes through second-growth upland and bottomland forest, shrubland, and cropland areas managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation. All of this great breeding and stopover habitat means great birdwatching! If you want to see lots of birds, focus on the area between the Duckett Creek trail head and Katy Trail or the section that stretches between Weldon Spring and August A. Busch Conservation areas.


Birdwatching for Beginners: What do you need?

  • A pair of binoculars
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Weather-appropriate clothing
  • A field guide to birds. There are several options:
    • The Audubon Society has a list of recommended field guides here. You can also borrow one for free from your local library!
    • If you prefer to use an app on your phone, Cornell Lab of Ornithology has created the Merlin Bird Identification App. It prompts you to answer five questions about the bird you have seen and it offers suggestions about what kind of bird it is based on your location. Learn more about Merlin here.

The Audubon Society also has a free app for identifying birds. Learn more about the Audubon Society app here: https://www.audubon.org/app


Birdwatching Tips

  • Walk slowly
  • Use quiet voices; no shouting
  • Smaller groups are better
  • Observe; do not interact with the birds
  • Look low along the ground in “shrubby” areas and high up in the tree tops
  • Listen carefully (If you want to familiarize yourself with different bird songs, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology “All about Birds” field guide. You can enter the name of the bird and hear their song. Find it here: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/ )

Become a Citizen Scientist: Share the birds you have seen on the greenways!

eBird is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year by eBirders around the world. This collaborative effort is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  eBird lets you:

  • Keep track of your bird lists, photos, and sounds
  • Explore latest sightings from around the world
  • Join the world’s largest birding community
  • Contribute to science and conservation
  • Find the latest bird hots spots in your area
  • Track migration of birds through your area

Registration on eBird is free and it an excellent resource for beginning and expert birdwatchers alike. Click here to learn more about ebird.

 

 

Made in the Shade: 4 Cool & Shady Greenways for Hot Summer Days!

Here are four greenways with lots of trees for cool & shady walks, bike rides or runs:

Mississippi Greenway: Cliff Cave Park

There are almost seven miles of paved greenway for walking, riding and running in Cliff Cave Park. If you prefer unpaved routes, you also have your choice of the Spring Valley and River Bluff trails.  If you want to avoid the sun, stick to the upper section of the park. Start your adventure at the new parking lot on Cliff Cave Road, or in the lower parking lot by the pavilion and walk up the bluff. You’ll enjoy a mostly shady 2 mile walk or ride as well as sweeping views of the Mississippi River as you explore this newest segment of greenway! Plan your trip here.

Busch Greenway:Katy Trail to Missouri Research Park to August A. Busch Conservation Area

The Busch Greenway stretches 4.73 miles from the Katy Trail to the August A. Busch Conservation Area. If you want to avoid the sun, stick to the .75 mile section between the Duckett Creek Trailhead (in Missouri Research Park) and the Katy Trail. For a longer walk or ride, jump on the Katy Trail where you will enjoy plenty of shade beneath the trees lining the river. Plan your visit here.

Meramec Greenway: Glencoe to Sherman Beach Park

There are several trails that meet in this stretch of the Meramec Greenway, making it possible to walk or bike for several miles on paved and unpaved paths surrounding the Meramec River.

The Al Foster Trail and the paved spur known as Rock Hollow are both beautiful places for a cool summer’s walk or ride. The Rock Hollow Trail stretches from atop Ridge Road, 2.2 miles down the bluff where it connects to the Al Foster Trail.  Rock Hollow is paved and mostly shady, with soaring bluffs through a dense forest.

The Al Foster Trail is flat, shady and made of crushed limestone. It is 3.21 miles long stretching from the trailhead near the intersection of Old State Road and Highway 109 by the Wabash, Frisco and Pacific miniature railroad to Sherman Beach. It offers tremendous views of the Meramec River as you pass besides soaring limestone bluffs. Click here to plan your trip

Missouri Greenway: Earth City Levee

This 4.73 section of the Missouri Greenway parallels the Missouri River in Bridgeton and Earth City. It offers stunning views of the Missouri River and Historic downtown St. Charles as it stretches between Highway 70 to Highway 370. You’ll have it “made in the shade” if you follow the 3 mile loop through Bridgeton’s Riverwoods Park. It is a great trail for young children to ride their bikes or walk because it is flat and less crowded. It will appeal to anyone looking for a quiet, more rural paved trail for walking or bike riding. Plan your trip here!

 

St. Charles City-County Library Storybook Walks on Greenways

The St. Charles City-County Library Storybook Walks are a creative and fun way for families to get some fresh air and exercise while encouraging a love for books and reading. Five books are hand-picked by library staff each month and displayed at five different parks across St. Charles County. Two of the Storybook Walk locations are on greenways! Pages are posted at several stations along each trail, so families and friends can enjoy a story as they walk together and enjoy the fresh air and scenery.  Locations outlined below, click the links for more details!

Fox Hill Rd.
St Charles 63301

*Located separate from the main park- near the parking area at the end of Huncker/Quince (Boschert Greenway Hunker Drive Parking), then just down a short paved path.

4601 Mid Rivers Mall Dr.
Cottleville 63376

*Located off of parking lot “Orange 4” in the north entrance off of Mid Rivers Mall Drive.

5501 Quail Ridge Pkwy.
Wentzville 63385

*Located just behind Quail Ridge Lodge on the paved trail.

100 William Dierberg Dr.
Wentzville 63385

*Located behind the restroom building and continues counterclockwise along the trail.

*Located past the playfields, beginning at the paved trail near shelter 3.

The Storybook Walks are a program of the St. Charles City-County Library. Financial support for the Storybook Walks is provided by the St. Charles City-County Library Foundation.

Learn the Untold Story of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair at “The Unfair Fair: Prejudice on the Pike” Event on May 5

The event, which will be held at the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing, will feature historical re-enactments, a choir competition, interpretive information and activities for children

On Saturday, May 5, 2018, from noon to 5 p.m., residents from around the St. Louis region are invited to watch local history come alive at Missouri’s first nationally-recognized Underground Railroad site, the historic Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing. That day, area residents can experience the sights and sounds of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair from the perspective of people of color. The “Unfair Fair: Prejudice on the Pike” event will chronicle the untold story of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition that welcomed the world – except for people of color – to St. Louis. This is the 16th annual event being held at the Mary Meachum site to commemorate the historical significance of the site and the importance of African American history in St. Louis.

Residents of all ages attending the free celebration on May 5 can walk along a “Pike” on the greenway that will recreate the festivities of the 1904 World’s Fair and show how most people of color who were at the Fair were either working or were part of a display. Original, life-size photos will represent the “Anthropology Village” that featured humans on display, with information explaining how various cultures were exploited for others’ enjoyment. Visitors can also experience living history via appearances and interaction with several costumed performers on the main stage and throughout the festival site. Portrayals will also show how the people of color who did attend were segregated and treated poorly by onsite Fair vendors and others.

The event will feature music and food and drinks for purchase. Other highlights will be Vaudeville-inspired acts, a magic show by Circus Harmony, interactive science exhibits from the St. Louis Science Center as well as international acts such as Middle Eastern Dance and African drumming. Guests are welcome to come in 1904 attire or just as they are.

“The 1904 World’s Fair has shaped our region’s culture and continues to be a source of pride to this day,” said Angela da Silva, Adjunct Professor at Lindenwood University and historical reenactor director and event manager. “However, not everyone was invited to the fair, nor treated equally. While just four years earlier, the Paris Exhibition hailed an exhibit about the ‘progress of the American Negro’, back in St. Louis in 1904, people of color were treated in sub-human ways.”

The Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing site is located on the Mississippi River Greenway on the banks of the Mississippi River, just north of Merchant’s Bridge in North St. Louis City. (Click here for a map.) The site commemorates the work of Mary Meachum, a free woman of color who guided many slaves to freedom by helping them to cross over to the free state of Illinois, and later helped to spearhead education efforts for men, women and children of color in St. Louis.

“This event seeks to share stories from the World’s Fair that have never been told,” said Linda Harris, Senior Vice President of Administration and Compliance for Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, a partner on the event. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Missouri’s first National Underground Railroad Historic Site and let people experience the world’s fair through the eyes of people of color.”

Open to all ages, this event is free, and is a partnership of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, National Black Tourism Network, Youth & Family Center, National Underground Railroad Network, the City of St. Louis, St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis County Library, Great Rivers Greenway, Missouri Historical Society, Circus Harmony, Missouri Division of Tourism, Missouri Humanities Council. For more information, visit www.MaryMeachum.org.

 

Bringing Nature Back Into Your Yard

earthday16-mckinley-14

Just as the native plantings and raingardens along the greenways add beauty, slow water runoff, reduce maintenance, and create pollinator habitat, you can enjoy the same benefits in your own backyard.

If you’ve been thinking about incorporating Missouri Native plants into your landscape, or creating a rain garden to manage storm water, there’s no time like the present to plan your garden!

Here are some helpful resources from across the region to help you learn more about native plants and rainscaping:

The Shaw Nature Reserve and Missouri Department of Conservation offer a free, Native Landscaping Manual online. You can find it here.


Native Plant School is a year-round series of mostly outdoor learning sessions in the Whitmire Wildflower Garden at Shaw Nature Reserve.   Their website offers a wealth of information including monthly newsletters, along with other home gardener tools. Click here to search.


Detailed information on rainscaping can be found on the Missouri Botanical Garden’s website here.


BiodiverseCity St. Louis is “a growing network of organizations and individuals throughout the greater St. Louis region who share a stake in improving quality of life for all through actions that welcome nature into our urban, suburban and rural communities.” Click here to learn more.


Grow Native! is a native plant marketing and education program of the Missouri Prairie Foundation. Grow Native! helps protect and restore biodiversity by increasing conservation awareness of native plants and their effective use in urban, suburban, and rural developed landscapes. Visit their website to learn more.


The St. Louis Audubon Society’s “Bring Conservation Home” program provides on-site assistance to small, private landowners  in the greater St. Louis area for the restoration of native plant and animal habitat on their grounds. Click here to learn more.


Wild Ones Native Plants, Natural Landscape “encourages landscaping with native plants in residential, business and public landscapes.” Click here to visit the St. Louis chapter website.


Dig in now so you’ll be ready to get to work this spring. Happy planting!

river-des-peres-rain-garden-in-bloom-closeup-summer

Bike Rides for Older Adults

It’s never too late to enjoy the fun and proven health benefits of bicycling!

Think you’re too old to ride a bike? Think again! It’s never too late to enjoy the health benefits (and fun!) of cycling. But don’t just take our word for it; the results of a recent Mayo Clinic study may motivate you to get back on a bike!

Researchers monitored the effects of different exercise regimens on healthy (but sedentary) men and women over the age of 64 and under the age of 30. After twelve weeks, the subjects who did interval workouts while pedaling a bicycle showed the greatest increase in the number and health of muscle cell “power generators”—the mitochondria. An unexpected finding was this positive effect was even more pronounced among the older cyclists. What does this mean for you? According to the study’s lead author, the decline in the cellular health of muscles associated with aging can be ‘corrected” with exercise in the form of interval training. Are you ready to get back on a bike yet?

Bike Riding as Interval Training
Interval training is any workout that alternates bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity. Many activities can be turned into an interval workout. However, a bike ride can deliver all the fitness benefits of interval training along with a healthy dose of fresh air, fun, and ever-changing scenery. So where do you begin…?

Back in the Saddle Again: Bike Rides for Older Adults in the St. Louis Region
With more than 113 miles of greenway across our region, you can take your pick of scenic routes, natural areas and parks to explore and enjoy. Click here to see a list of all the greenways.  If you would rather ride with a group, there are a number of options for older adults and those who are new to cycling:

City of Chesterfield Parks, Recreation and Arts
The City of Chesterfield offers weekly group bike rides for adults age 55 and older. They ride on greenways across the regional as well as the KATY Trail.  The rides are free and designed to accommodate people of all fitness levels. Contact olderadults@chesterfield.mo.us to be placed on their mailing list. You can also visit the website here.

Oasis St. Louis
Oasis is a non-profit educational organization whose mission is to promote healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyles and volunteer engagement. St. Louis Oasis offers a variety of bike rides geared for older adults. You can find their spring 2018 rides on greenways here.

St. Louis Recreational Cyclists
St. Louis Recreational Cyclists is a bicycling group that offers “both moderate and more challenging group rides” in the metropolitan St. Louis area. Visit their website to learn more.

Women’s Cycling Community of Greater St. Louis
The Women’s Cycling Community (WC2) offers group rides on greenways, trails and roads around the region. They welcome all levels of riders from beginners needing a mentor to experienced. Find riding buddies, cycling tips, social events and adventures for women of all ages and abilities across the region. Visit their “meetup” web site to learn more.

If you know of other group rides for older adults or those who are new to cycling, tell us here.


Adventures With an Older Adult Group Bike Ride: Bike Stop Café to Bike Stop Cafe

Curious what a group bike ride is like? Mary Klauke, recreation specialist with the City of Chesterfield Parks, Recreation and Arts tells all:

“In spring 2017, we kicked off our inaugural season of weekly bike rides for adults age 55 and older on the Missouri Greenway: Monarch Chesterfield Levee. We had a really enthusiastic group of people ranging from 53 to 82 years old. Some of the participants had been riding for years; others were just getting back on a bike. We made it clear that everyone was welcome to set their own pace. We also wanted everyone to determine how far they wanted to go.

After several weeks, our group wanted to see some new sites so I organized rides on Grant’s Trail, the Al Foster Trail in the Meramec Greenway, Creve Coeur Park to Centennial Greenway and the KATY Trail.

We continued riding every Monday through the summer. It was exciting to see everyone increase their speed and endurance. By September we were ready for a “graduation ride.” I planned a trip that took us 18.3 miles from the Bike Stop Café in Chesterfield to the Bike Stop Café in St. Charles on the KATY Trail.

We met at the Chesterfield Bike Stop Café at Taubman Prestige Outlets near the food court.  After a little rain, the sun came out (along with a full rainbow!) and we enjoyed a beautiful ride across the Missouri River to the KATY Trail. We took a pit stop and cookie and pie break at Thies Farms on Greens Bottom Road parallel to the trail. Seven miles further down the KATY Trail we pulled off and enjoyed a delicious lunch on the patio at Bike Stop Café in St. Charles. A few people opted to take the Bike Stop Café Shuttle back to Chesterfield and the rest of the group enjoyed the 18 mile return trip (for a total of 36 miles) back to their cars. It was a great way to cap off our inaugural season!”(Contact olderadults@chesterfield.mo.us to be placed on their mailing list.)

Does that sound like fun?

Plan your own Bike Stop Cafe to Bike Stop Cafe Trip here!

Greenway Getaway: Bike Stop Cafe Chesterfield to Bike Stop Cafe St. Charles

If you love sweet treats, fresh food, the KATY Trail, river views and a longer ride (18+ miles), we’ve got the perfect greenway getaway for you!

This route takes you from the Bike Stop Café in Chesterfield to the Bike Stop Café in St. Charles. You’ll travel along the Missouri Greenway: Monarch Chesterfield Levee; cross over the river on the bike path on the Boone Bridge, and follow the KATY Trail to the Historic District of St. Charles near Main Street.

There are two Bike Stop Cafés. One is at the Taubman Prestige Outlets (17057 N Outer 40 Rd, Chesterfield, MO 63005) and the other at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Perry Street (701 Riverside Drive, St. Charles, MO 63301).

Parking:
Begin your ride at the Chesterfield Bike Stop Café. Be sure to grab a snack before you begin! The greenway runs behind the Taubman Prestige outlet, atop the Monarch Chesterfield Levee. You can jump on the greenway via a connection on the western end of the outlet mall’s parking lot. If you want to shave six miles off the total route, you can park at the Chesterfield Valley Athletic Complex Parking lot West A & B and access the greenway there. 

Route:
Follow the greenway to the Boone Bridge. Be sure to stop on the bridge and enjoy the view of the Missouri River! Take the clover leaf down from the Boone Bridge. When you get to the Katy Trail, take a left and head east towards the Historic District of  St. Charles. Stop at Thies Farms on Greens Bottom road for a snack break. (Their cookies and pie come highly recommended!) Continue east for 7 miles until you reach the St. Charles Bike Stop Café located at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Perry Street.

Distance:
Bike Stop Café at Taubman Outlet to Bike Stop Café St. Charles = 18.3 miles
Bike Stop Café at Taubman Outlet to Chesterfield Valley Athletic Complex lot West A & B = 3 miles
Chesterfield Valley Athletic Complex lot West A & B to Thies Farms on Greens Bottom Road = 8.3 miles
Thies Farms to Bike Stop Café in St. Charles = 7 miles

Round Trip:
Chesterfield Bike Stop Café to Bike Stop Café St. Charles  = 36.6 miles
Chesterfield Valley Athletic Complex Parking lot West A & B to Bike Stop Café St. Charles = 30.6 miles

About the Bike Stop Cafés:
Owned by cycling advocates Jodi Devonshire and Tony Caruso, the Bike Stop Cafés provide “…customers of all walks of life, reasonably priced bicycles, service and healthy foods.” Both locations offer a full menu of sandwiches, wraps and salads, breakfast all day and also serve coffee, beer and wine. They chose their Chesterfield location so customers could easily connect with the greenway. Click here to learn more about both Bike Stop Cafes, check out the menu and see options for bike service, rentals and sales!  Bike Stop Cafe also offers shuttle service, but advance reservations are required and shuttles may not always be available. Call 636.724.9900 for more information!

Geocaching on the Greenways

Looking for a fun way to enjoy a little more life outside with the entire family? Give geocaching a try!

What is geocaching?

Geocaching is a kind of modern day GPS enabled treasure hunt. There are thousands of geocaches hidden in parks and along trails and greenways waiting to be discovered…by you.

With the help of a hand-held GPS or cell phone, you search for these caches by making your way to provided coordinates. But that will only get you so far. Once you are at the spot, you have to use your wits to find the hidden treasure. Caches can be hidden in trees, under rocks, within walls and pretty much anywhere the person hiding it can dream up.

The caches themselves vary greatly in size, contents and appearance. Some are as small as a film canister while others can be as large as a 5 gallon bucket. There are hundreds hidden throughout the St. Louis region, including more than a few placed along the greenways!


What’s inside a geocache?

Once you have found a geocache, the next step is to open it. The smallest caches (called micros and nanos) typically contain just a log which, on which you will jot down your name and the date, letting future finders of the cache know that you were there. Other caches are large enough to contain more than just the log. They will also contain any number of items, including coins, toys and trinkets. As a reward for your intrepid work, you are allowed to take and keep any item from the cache, but with one caveat – you must leave something of equal or greater value in its place. Once you have done that, put the geocache back exactly where you found it and replace any debris or materials that may have been covering it.


Where do you start?

A great place to get started is the Geocaching.com website. There, you can learn much, much more about the hobby and once you have created a free account, you can access the database of millions of geocaches around the world – including the hundreds that are located in the St. Louis region.

You can browse through their map, and check out all the geocaches near you.

Once you have found one that piques your interest, you can check out additional details about the geocache including an included description about the site as well as helpful hints that can lead you to the treasure. When you are ready to go, use the included GPS coordinates to start your treasure hunt! 

 


Is it a kid friendly activity?

Every geocache is different. Some will be very kid friendly while others may not be the best choice for young ones.

To help you choose the right geocache for you and your kiddos, be sure to take a gander at each geocache’s difficulty and terrain rating. Each cache is assigned a score from 1 to 5 for both categories to detail how hard the geocache is to get to and find once you are there. Geocaches with scores of 1 are very easy to find and are easily accessible. On the flip side, a geocache with scores of a 5 will require specialized knowledge, tools and equipment to find and may involve rock climbing, repelling or scuba diving to reach.

There are no shortage of geocaches out there, so you should be able to find more than a few to entertain and delight all members of your treasure hunting party.


Where did it come from?

Outer space.

Satellites circling  the earth, roughly 12,000 miles above us, make this game possible. The hobby burst into life back in the year 2000 when the U.S. government opened up use of 24 of these satellites to any human being yielding an appropriately attuned device. GPS existed before this, but it wasn’t very accurate. This change instantly boosted the accuracy of devices ten-fold. About that time, some clever fellow who wanted to test the accuracy of these devices for himself, hid a bucket in the woods and posted the coordinates to the internet with the simple rules to anyone who would find it…”take some stuff, leave some stuff.” The game caught on, and now more than 3 million caches are currently hidden around the world.


What do I need to bring?

You will need a hand held GPS unit or a GPS enabled cell phone. Also be sure to bring a pen so that you can sign your name to the logs. Some caches are too small to include a pen, and you want the world to know of your achievements. You will also want to bring along some treasures to replace any trinkets or tokens you may take from a discovered trove. Beyond that, be sure to bring whatever else you might bring along on a family adventure outdoors and you should be all set for a day of GPS enabled fun!


Want to know more?

We caught up with Peter Shaw from the St. Louis Area Geocachers Association to learn more about this activity. He was kind enough to take us out for a bit and explain the basics.

Greenway Getaway: Postcards from the Sunset Greenway

If you’ve never explored the Sunset Greenway, now is the time to plan a trip! This 3.9 mile paved route meanders through Florissant in north St. Louis County and offers stunning views of the Missouri River at Sunset Park along with connections to other parks, neighborhoods, and multiple historic sites along the way!

With fall colors reaching their peak, a walk or bike ride down the bluff in Sunset Park to the Missouri River will be a feast for your eyes. And speaking of feasts, there are plenty of local restaurants and “Mom-and-Pop” stops where you can enjoy a quick snack or delicious meal.

If you are a history buff, you’ll love exploring a greenway that takes you through one of the earliest settlements in the state of Missouri. You’ll also enjoy Old St. Ferdinand Shrine, Sacred Heart Church, and dozens of historic buildings and homes in Old Town Florissant.

There is so much to see and do along the way, we’ve compiled a list of options so you can plan your own trip!

Sunset Greenway in Sunset Park

The Sunset Greenway is a flat, paved route that stretches 3.9 miles from Florissant’s Sunset Park to St. Francois Street near the Old St. Ferdinand Shrine. Less than a mile of the greenway lies within Sunset Park–but what a lovely less-than-a-mile it is! It connects the upper section of the park down to the banks of the Missouri River. You can walk, ride or push a stroller through the tree-lined path while enjoying views of the river. There are plenty of benches to stop and rest along the way. If you happen to be visiting when the sun goes down, you’ll understand why it’s called Sunset Park!

Sunset Park to Saint Ferdinand Park (2.3 miles)

From Sunset Park, the greenway parallels Humes Lane and then turns south along Patterson Road to Mullanphy Road where it passes through Florissant’s 64-acre Saint Ferdinand Park. There are pavilions, sand volleyball courts, restrooms, a lake, six ball fields and four playground areas. The park is home to the summer concert series “Music under the Stars” held adjacent to the lake in during July and August.

Saint Ferdinand Park to St. Francois Street (.9 miles)

From Saint Ferdinand Park, the greenway continues south along Coldwater Creek, under Lindbergh Blvd, crossing St. Denis Street and through Coldwater Commons Park. The greenway ends at St. Francois Street. Immediately to the right (west) is the Historic St. Ferdinand Shrine. To the left, (east) you can walk or ride on St. Francois Street into Florissant Old Town. It is .7 mile from the greenway at St. Francois Street through Old Town to its eastern border at N. New Florissant Rd.

Historic Sites to See

Old St. Ferdinand Shrine
The Shrine is at the site of one of the earliest European settlements west of the Mississippi. Although Spain controlled the area, early settlers were French farmers and fur trappers attracted to the fertile banks of nearby Coldwater Creek. The French called the valley “Fleurissant” which means “flowering” or “flourishing” while the Spanish called the tiny settlement “St. Ferdinand.” While it is not known when the first settlers came to the area, it is believed that the village was settled about the same time St. Louis was (1764). The king of Spain actually granted the village the site where the old church was built. The settlement was typical of French settlements at the time with a commons and common fields where the villagers did their farming. For a number of years a log church served the community until the original portion of the existing church was constructed in 1821. Tours are available from Monday thru Sunday by appointment. For more details, visit the Shrine’s website.

Sacred Heart Church
In Old Town, the historic Sacred Heart Catholic Church is located at the corner of N. Jefferson and St. Denis Street. Founded by German families who settled in the area, the original church was completed in 1872. The existing church was completed in 1893. It is still an active parish of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The historic Herz Jesu school building is the home of Sacred Heart Kindergarten, prekindergarten and preschool. There is a museum on the lower level of the Rectory that is open the second Sunday of the month from 10am to 2pm. To learn more about the church and school, visit their website.

Walking Tour of Old Town Florissant

Old Town Florissant is filled with many century homes, businesses, restaurants and shops housed in historic buildings. Florissant Old Town Partners has created a self-guided walking tour comprised of 13 historic sites. Click here for the map so you can take the tour!

Places to Eat

There is something for everyone along the Sunset Greenway. Whether you’re craving some Mexican food, a donut, pizza, crab cakes, pastries, deli sandwiches or an ice cold beverage—you can find it just around the corner. Here are just a few of the local favorites:

Hendel’s—known for their historic building, Hendel’s Burger, crab cakes, Sunday brunch and outdoor patio. (599 St. Denis Street, 63031)

Ruiz—St. Louis’ oldest Mexican restaurant is located directly on the greenway! ( 901 N. US Highway 67, 63031)

Helfer’s Pastries & Deli Cafe—Family-owned bakery and deli. Their slogan is “Premium ingredients and expert skill make quality our specialty.” (380 Saint Ferdinand St., 63031)

Amore Pizza—family owned restaurant known for “pizza and pasta specials at reasonable prices.” (450 Saint Francois Street, 63031)

Fritz’s Original Frozen Custard—home of the Famous Turtle Sunday! (1055 St. Catherine, Florissant, 63031)

Old Town Donuts—recognized by the Riverfront Times as the best donuts in the St. Louis region. They are open 24 Hours a day, 7 days a week! (508 New Florissant Rd., 63031)

Find more places to dine, visit and shop here

Important information to know before you go!

If you are riding your bike, the Rotary Club of Florissant has recently completed the installation of ten new bicycle racks to accommodate increased bicycle traffic in Historic Old Town Florissant! These are placed in strategic locations around Old Town including City Hall, Fritz’s Frozen Custard, Stem’s Florist and Gifts, Old St. Ferdinand Shrine, and more.

Construction to improve the intersection where the greenway crosses Shackelford Rd. is underway. As with any intersection, please use caution when crossing the roadway.

There has been a “washout” along Coldwater Creek just north of Lindbergh Blvd. The greenway is still open in this area, but it narrows slightly. Use caution when passing through this area as we work with our partners to repair it.

Parking
Street parking is available in Historic Old Town. You can also park in Sunset Park or Saint Ferdinand Park.

Restrooms
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New Partnership with Saint Louis University Studying Urban Bee Diversity

If you find yourself out on the McKinley Bridge Bikeway on a hot summer morning around 11 o’clock, don’t be shocked if you come across a group of college students wielding nets. They mean you no harm. They are only there for the bees.

These students are actually interns, conducting field research for a study of pollinator diversity within urban environments. The project, a partnership between the Biology Department of Saint Louis University and Great Rivers Greenway, is particularly interested in the diversity of the bee population within the city of St. Louis.

St. Louis, like many other cities around the world, has become a haven for bees. In fact, St. Louis is the home to more species of bees than any other city in North America. This increase in urban bee diversity is of particular interest to scientists, as bee diversity in more rural areas has been on the decline.

“When you look at plants, when you look at birds, when you look at mammals. Their overall diversity, as you get closer to the city, gets lower and lower and lower,” explained Gerardo Camilo, Associate Professor of Biology at Saint Louis University. “For bees, it is the opposite. Compared to the surrounding rural, suburban and agricultural sites, diversity is higher in the city environment.”

This poses two unique challenge to researchers and scientists – to first understand why bee populations are moving into the cities and then to figure out how to move them back to rural areas where they are needed most.


The Importance of Bee Diversity

“The total number of bees that you have, yes it is important, but how many different kinds of bees you have also matters a lot,” Camilo said.

“Different plant species will have different pollinators. It’s basic physics,” he explained. “A big bee weighs more and has bigger claws to dig into the flower, while smaller bees can’t do such things. A Bumble Bee is almost a hundred times bigger than a Sweat Bee, so even if the Sweat Bee tried with all its might, it may not be able to pull the pollen out of some plants.”

But it’s not just size that can be a factor. Some bees have developed specialized techniques for extracting pollen that are specific to their own species.

“On the south side, some community gardens stopped planting tomatoes. They were buying the plants and spending money on water and fertilizer and everything else, but they weren’t getting any tomatoes.”

As it turns out, this lack of growth was caused by a lack of Bumble Bees, and a specific pollination technique called “buzz pollination” through which these bees gain access to a plant’s pollen by vibrating their wings at just the right frequency.

“Of all the pollinators, bees are the only ones that intentionally collect pollen. Everyone else – hummingbirds, bats, butterflies – they gather the pollen accidentally,” Camilo said. “When it comes to humans, of the plants that we require for our own survival, over 99 percent of everything we eat or use for fiber – like cotton – comes from bee pollination.”


Counting Bees

To help gain a better understanding of what factors attract bees within the urban environment, Camilo and his team of interns – with nets in hand – have been paying regular visits to the pollinator gardens along the McKinley Bridge Bikeway and the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing.

“It’s interesting to see the separation of what is living at each of these sites, even though they are only about a mile away from eachother,” said Alexandra Rader, one of the interns working on the pollinator project.

“I am particularly interested in plant biology, but bees and plants are completely intertwined,” Rader said. “St. Louis seems to be a hub of where the bees are going, and so we need to know why that is so we can learn from that and help bees succeed better in other locations.”

But to learn from the bees, the interns first have to catch them.

“We’ll go to different flowers and if we see a bee we’ll swing our net at it and catch it,” explained Jessica Von Bokel, one of the interns participating in the summer program. “We’ll take them back to the lab and identify the specific species at that specific location on that specific day.”

And they have no shortage of bees to study. On a good day, interns can collect over 200 individual bees, providing them with plenty of work for the lab.

The information from this project will help inform a global effort to understand this shift towards urbanized bees.

“I have colleagues in Detroit, Chicago, California, England and Australia, and despite all our efforts, we are all scratching our heads,” Camilo said. “We have seen this pattern all around the world. We are trying to come up with the right questions to ask. It takes us time to digest all this data, all this information, but in the mean-time we keep on sampling. The more bees we observe. The more crumbs we find to follow.”

Exactly where the crumbs will lead, Camilo is not certain, but the motivations for this work remains clear.

“We need bees. Right now, this is where the bees are. Ultimately, the goal is to understand what it is that we are doing in cities, and replicate it in the surrounding areas so their bee diversity comes up.”