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.”

Walk or Ride Through Time on the St. Vincent Greenway!

There are two segments of the St. Vincent Greenway. The northern portion runs 3.5 miles along the rolling hills of the UMSL campus through the lush and shady landscape of St. Vincent County Park.

On the south end, the greenway runs 1.9 miles from Trojan Park at Etzel and Skinker, through Ruth Porter Mall Park to Forest Park at Lindell.

Both segments offer a wide range of scenery—from historic neighborhoods, to parks, to an active university campus. Here are some historical tidbits and points of interest to think about as you explore and enjoy this greenway:

University of Missouri- St. Louis Campus

Did you know a portion of the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus was the Bellerive Country Club golf course? As you walk or ride over the rolling hills on the greenway that crosses the campus, you can easily imagine how it was once home to PGA tournaments and national amateur golf championships. Since 1960, the University has grown from a single building on the former country club to more than 50 buildings on 300 acres.

Natural Bridge Road

The northern section of the St. Vincent Greenway crosses Natural Bridge Road south of the UMSL Campus. Did you know that this roadway was once a route that wagon trains took west to the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails?

Ruth C. Porter Mall

The St. Vincent Greenway passes through Ruth C. Porter Mall Park between Delmar and Etzel. The park is named for Ruth C. Porter a tireless activist dedicated to eradicating inequality and discrimination in St. Louis.

A large portion of her work was focused on education. She introduced innovative leadership, tutoring programs and a new kindergarten at the Kinloch YMCA. Porter also co-founded the Kinder Cottage–a preschool whose  concepts of early education pre-dated Head Start. She also established Community Resources an organization that worked to integrate the city’s schools–a goal she felt went unrealized nearly a decade after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

As a founding member of the Greater St. Louis Committee for Freedom of Residence,  Porter became its first executive director, championing the fight for open housing in a city where redlining and restrictive covenants kept many African American families segregated.

At great personal sacrifice, she dedicated her life to improving the world in which she lived and building bridges between people of every race and class. She left an indelible mark on St. Louis and her home, the West End neighborhood.

St. Vincent Hospital

St. Vincent County park is named for the former St. Vincent’s Hospital first opened on the site in August 1895. Built  for the then-enormous cost of $500,000, it was the finest institutional building of its time. The interior included custom woodwork and stained glass windows and the 140 acres of surrounding landscape provided patients with therapy and recreation opportunities. Food for the patients was even grown on the hospital’s property. In 1977 the land surrounding the hospital was turned into a county park, and in 1980 St. Vincent County Park was opened to the public.

While it has since been converted to apartments, the castle-like building’s dramatic turrets, towers, and spires remain. When it first opened, the building was located between the Huntley and Eden Stations on the Wabash Railroad (now the MetroLink line). A railroad stop just for the hospital was added at the foot of a long series of steps that led up the hill to the main entrance. As you travel along the greenway, you can still see these steps once used by hospital staff, visitors, and the Daughters of Charity.

Hodiamont Street Car

The St. Vincent Greenway crosses over what was once the site of the West End Narrow Gauge Railroad–a passenger steam locomotive launched in 1875. This railroad enabled the exodus of affluent families from downtown to St. Louis to what was once considered the suburbs. The tracks eventually became the Hodiamont street car line. You can see where it once ran as you cross the site of the former tracks in the Hodiamont alley between Vernon and Cabanne Avenues.

When the St. Vincent Greenway is complete; it will extend 7 miles from NorthPark and the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus all the way to Forest Park.

The route to connect both sections of the greenway was identified after an extensive citizen engagement effort in 2014. Great Rivers Greenway staff and the design team are continuing to work together on design, funding strategies and phasing. Click here for the master plan for this greenway!

Protecting Endangered Bats on the Future Greenways

bat-circleSince our founding in 2000, Great Rivers Greenway has been tasked with making the St. Louis region a more vibrant place to live, work and play by developing a network of greenways to connect people to their rivers, parks and communities. Part of that mission, and public mandate, includes protection of our environment and local ecology. As such, many steps are taken during the greenway design and construction process to minimize and remediate the environmental and ecological impact of our trail network.

While we want people to live more of their lives outside, we don’t want to harm any native creatures in the process as each provide benefits to the natural ecology of the region.

Bats, in particular, provide incredible benefit to ecosystems. They help control pests by eating insects. They also pollinate flowers, and can help spread the seeds of trees and other plants.

Missouri is home to 15 species of bats, many of which live and thrive along the waterways that parallel many of our greenways. Sadly, a few of these bat species – including the Indiana Bat, the Gray Bat, and the Northern Long Ear Bat –  are on the list of federally endangered animals.


Gray Bat Facts:gray

Federally endangered species in Missouri.

Hibernate and summer in caves. May not be the same cave. But the only Missouri bat that inhabits caves all year.

Hibernation lasts from October through April.

Feed on flying insects over water or in riparian vegetation.

Indiana Bat Facts:indiana

Federally endangered species in Missouri.

Summer habitat consists of wooded vegetation with snags, hollow depressions, or loose bark.

Feed on insects around tree canopy and over open water.

Hibernate in caves or mines.

Northern Long Ear Bat:longear

Federally threatened species in Missouri.

Hibernates primarily in caves during the winter.

Utilize hollow trees for maternity roosts during the summer months.

Forage for insects within wooded hillsides and ridges.

While bats are often thought of as living in caves, in truth, many bat species spend much of the year living in forests. These bats make their homes in hollow trees and under flaky bark during the summer months, feeding on insects along streams and creeks and around tree canopies.

This presents a challenge for trail construction through wooded areas, particularly in areas where endangered bats are known to frequent. Such was the case with two recent greenway projects – the extension of the Fee Fee Greenway from McKelvey Woods to Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park and the extension of the Mississippi Greenway within Cliff Cave County Park.

Thankfully, these bats do not spend the winter months in trees. Instead, they prefer to inhabit caves and mines while they hibernate through the colder parts of the year. This provides us with a window of opportunity.

While our bat friends are sleeping snug in their caves, we remove any necessary trees  between November 1 and March 31. To aid this process, we conduct tree assessments of any projects that may potentially impact bat populations. These assessments identify any tree along the planned route that may serve as a potential bat roost. Whenever possible, trees with flaky bark and hollow areas are avoided. Unfortunately, there are times when geographic features provide very little wiggle room. In such cases, tree removal is unavoidable. But by scheduling this work during a time of year when the bats are safe in their caves, the impact on their population is minimal.

Greenway Getaway! Meramec Greenway: Greentree Park to Arnold’s Grove

If you are looking for the perfect greenway for toddlers and training wheels—look no further than the Meramec Greenway: Greentree Park to Arnold’s Grove!

bridge-in-meramec-3This segment of the greenway stretches between Arnold’s Grove just west of Highway 141 and parallels the river to Greentree Park in Kirkwood. The 3.6 mile paved trail offers plenty of shade, no hills and a slower pace—just right for beginning cyclists and young explorers.

There are also plenty of things to see along the way such as Meramec Landing Park, the St. Louis Dirt Burners radio controlled miniature raceway, and the Family Golf and Learning Center. You can also meander around the trails in Simpson Park where you can enjoy the lake and playground. Look closely and you might spot one of the Eagles that nest in this park!


7.2 mile trip

Park at either end of the Greenway (Arnold’s Grove or Greentee Park) and enjoy a full 7.2 mile walk, run or bike ride.

4 mile trip

Park at Arnold’s Grove and walk or ride 2 miles to where the greenway connects with Marshall Road. You can cross Marshall Road at the crosswalk to go into Simpson Park (this will add some more mileage to your journey!) Head back to Arnold’s Grove for a round trip of four miles. If you decide you want to go even further, turn right (east) on Marshall Road, cross the bridge and take an immediate right back onto the paved trail and head towards the river to continue on the greenway.

Other tips to know before you go:

If you are not sure how far your young cyclists or walkers want to go, you can park in Greentree Park off Marshall Road and start exploring. Turn around when their legs get tired!

You can also park in the Meramec Landing Park parking lot across the street and just east of the entrance into Simpson Park. Click here for a map. The greenway crosses this parking lot.  You can take it west towards Arnold’s Grove (2 miles) or east (1.6 miles) to Greentree Park. Walk or ride your bike across Marshall Road at the crosswalk to enter Simpson Park via the paved trail. If you want to go to Greentree Park, the greenway briefly parallels Marshall Road on a bridge over the Simpson Lake spillway and then turns towards the river. Take a right once you cross the bridge.

This area can flood after heavy rains. Be sure to check our website for any alerts before you go.

There are restrooms in Simpson Park and Greentree Park.

Take a Virtual Tour

Click on the green dots to catch a glimpse of the views along this greenway!
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Greenway Getaway: River des Peres Greenway

RIVER DES PERES SIGNAGE SUNLIGHT SUMMER-600If you like Grant’s Trail in the Gravois Greenway, but prefer the route “less traveled,” you’ll love the River des Peres Greenway! This greenway, along with its two connectors, offers plenty of sunshine and is great for walkers, runners and bikers of all skill levels. We’ve broken down the mileage for  different segments, as well as connections to surrounding parks so you can “build your own” adventure.

6 mile route: Out and back from Lansdowne to Gravois

The 3-mile section between Lansdowne and Gravois  was recently rebuilt, offering a smooth ride and gentle sloping grades. You can park at the Shrewsbury/Lansdowne MetroLink Station and enjoy a slow-paced out-and-back ride for a total of 6 miles. Be sure to take note of the rain garden near the Shop-n-Save Parking lot at Weil Avenue. You’ll see plenty of pollinators enjoying the native plantings this time of year. There are restrooms and drinking fountains at Fultz field.

10 miles: Lansdowne to Alabama

The full distance of the current greenway between Lansdowne and Alabama is 5 miles. If you do an out-and-back walk or ride, you’ll log 10 miles.

11 mile route: Full tour from Carondelet Park

Start your run or ride in Carondelet Park and jump on  the “Carondelet Connector” paved trail near the intersection of Holly Hills and Grand Avenue in the park. Follow it for one mile to Highway 55 and Germania. Take a right and follow the greenway all the way to the Shrewsbury/Lansdowne Metrolink Station, turn around and follow it back to the current end of the paved trail at Alabama and then return to Carondelet Park via the Carondelet Connector.

Side Trips for Your Walking/Running/Biking Pleasure:

Willmore Park
You can connect to Willmore Park by crossing the River des Peres at Gravois and heading west on Hampton Avenue via a dedicated bike lane. There, an additional 1.5 miles of paved trails meander around the lakes in Willmore Park to explore and enjoy!

Carondelet Park
CARONDELET PARK BENCH PEOPLE LAKE SUMMER-1200A two mile network of paved trails runs throughout Carondelet Park. Take a journey through these trails on to boost your mileage!

The Carondelet Connector
The Carondelet Connector spurs off the River des Peres Trail at the intersection of Highway 55 and Germania. You can walk or ride your bike 1 mile on the paved trail and connect to all of the businesses at Loughborough Commons as well as Carondelet Park near the YMCA.

Christy Greenway
The Christy Greenway is a neighborhood greenway that spurs off the River des Peres Greenway between Gravois and Morgan Ford Rd. that will take you approximately 1 mile to Holly Hills Boulevard. Once there, you can connect with Bike St. Louis on street bike routes to Carondelet Park.

RIVER DES PERES CYCLIST PAVED TRAIL SUMMER-600Here are some other things to do along the River des Peres Greenway:

Stop by Lyle House in Carondelet Park and see the oldest existing frame house within the City Limits of St. Louis

Check out the YMCA Rec Plex in Carondelet Park. The outdoor pool is open to the public Monday-Friday during the summer.

Enjoy the playgrounds in Carondelet Park and River des Peres Park

Enjoy the lakes in Willmore and Carondelet Parks

Board the Metrolink at the Shrewsbury/Lansdowne Station and take it to the Forest Park-DeBaliviere station where you can connect to Forest Park. You can also take it to points beyond!  If you want to bring your bike on the train, click here for the guidelines.


Within the next year, there will be even more River des Peres Greenway to explore and enjoy as it will extend from Alabama Avenue to the River City Casino, connecting to the Mississippi Greenway and Jefferson Barracks Park. Construction is currently underway and should be completed by spring 2017.

For more information on the River des Peres Greenway, click here.

Greenway Getaway: Monarch Chesterfield Levee, Busch Greenway and KATY Trail

Did you know there is a new separated path on the Boone Bridge for people to walk, run or ride a bike across the Missouri River? It offers stunning river views and connects two counties (St. Louis, St. Charles) and two greenways (Busch and Missouri Greenway: Monarch Chesterfield Levee) via the KATY Trail. It’s also opened up a whole new world of recreational opportunities!

Whether you are just getting back on your bicycle, are a marathon runner, or simply looking for a new place to walk—this “Greenway Getaway” has something for everyone. Here are a few options depending on what you want to do!


view from boone bridge
View from atop the Boone Bridge (you can’t see this from a car!)

Starting at Busch Greenway Duckett Creek Trailhead in Missouri Research Park
This is a perfect walk, run or easy bike ride for people of all ages. It offers plenty of shade, great river views and there are no steep hills!  Park at the Busch Greenway Duckett Creek Trailhead in the Missouri Research Park  and walk .75 miles on the paved greenway down the bluff to the KATY Trail. Take a left, (east) and walk one mile to the new “cloverleaf” that takes you up to the pedestrian path across the Boone Bridge. At first glance, it looks a little steep, but the incline is very gradual. There are a couple of bump outs on the bridge where you can stop and enjoy the views of the Missouri River. Keep walking or riding across the bridge to the Missouri Greenway: Monarch Chesterfield Levee. The trip across the bridge from the cloverleaf to the Missouri Greenway is .75 miles. Stop at St. Louis Premium Outlets for a quick break or to use the restrooms.  Turn around and head back across the river the same way for a total trip of 5 miles. (shorten the trip by turning around on the bridge.)

5 Mile

looking towards premium outlet from monarch, after crossing bridge
Facing west from atop the Monarch Levee looking at St. Louis Premium outlet parking lot. There is a gravel road that connects the parking lot and greenway.


From Missouri Greenway: Monarch Chesterfield Levee at St. Louis Premium Outlets
This trip offers gorgeous views of the River from atop the bridge and along the KATY Trail. St. Louis Premium Outlets welcomes you to park in the northwest corner of their parking lot near the levee. You can also use their restrooms during business hours.  You will have to walk up a short gravel road to access the Missouri Greenway’s paved trail on the levee. The trip across the bridge to the KATY trail is .75 miles. Travel down the cloverleaf and take a right (west) on the KATY Trail for one mile to connect with the Busch Greenway. Once you are on the Busch Greenway, you’ll meander through a shady hardwood forest as you head up the bluff towards Missouri Research Park (.75 miles). As you travel through Weldon Spring Conservation Area, you will enjoy lake overlooks, abundant wildflowers, and the occasional deer or wild turkey. Be sure to stop and read the interpretive signage that explains the history of the area. Just past the Highway 94 underpass you will come to a rain garden in a “roundabout.” You can continue to Highway D where the paved trail ends.

13 Mile

The mileage breakdown for the 13 mile trip is as follows:

.75 mile (paved) on Missouri Greenway: Monarch Chesterfield Levee across bridge from St. Louis Premium Outlets to KATY Trail
1 mile on KATY Trail (unpaved) to connect with Busch Greenway
.75 mile (paved, gentle incline) to Duckett Creek Parking Lot in Missouri Research Park (drinking fountain)
4 miles (paved) from Duckett Creek Parking Lot to Highway D


You can add an additional six miles (three miles out and back) to the 13 mile route for a total of 19 miles. Stay on the paved Missouri Greenway: Monarch Chesterfield Levee and continue west, past the Premium Outlet Parking lot for three miles to where it currently ends at Centaur Road.

19 Mile


Shady .75 mile trip up the bluff from the KATY Trail towards Duckett Creek Trailhead in Busch Greenway.

Feeling ambitious? You can add another 10 miles (five miles out and back) to the 13 mile route for a total of 23 miles. Once you cross back over the Boone Bridge, take a right and go down the hill and under Highway 40 on the Missouri Greenway: Monarch Chesterfield Levee. Follow it for five miles to where it currently ends just past the Taubman Prestige Outlets. This is a flat, easy and sunny route.

23 Mile


The Busch Greenway completes a 13.1 mile loop between the KATY and Hamburg Trails. This route is best for running or walking. You can do it on a bike, but you must have mountain bike tires as the route that follows the Hamburg trail is unpaved with a fairly rocky base. (The gravel is larger as compared to the KATY Trail.) Park at the Duckett Creek Trailhead parking lot. Run up the hill through Missouri Research Park and follow the greenway under highway 94 (4 miles). Just beyond the underpass, you will see a “roundabout” with a rain garden.  Look for the sign that points to the Hamburg Trail and keep going (approx 3.75 miles) until it connects with the  Katy Trail at mile marker 56.7. Go left (east) on the KATY for 4.6 miles to mile marker 52.1 and follow the paved Busch Greenway .75 miles back up the bluff to the Duckett Creek Trailhead where you began!

Half Marathon

Wildflowers in Weldon Spring Conservation Area in Busch Greenway

About the Busch Greenway
The Busch Greenway connects to the KATY Trail at mile marker 52.1. From there, it meanders 4.75 miles through Missouri Research Park and Weldon Spring Conservation to Busch Conservation Area at Highway D. Click here to learn more about the Busch Greenway and other sights along the way!

About the Missouri Greenway: Monarch Chesterfield Levee Trail
This greenway offers three segments which will eventually connect for a 17-mile loop. A 5.5 mile segment is now complete from the Hardee’s Ice Rink to Chesterfield Valley Athletic Club and across the Boone Bridge. You can also follow the greenway in the other direction three miles to Centaur Road. A two mile segment has also been completed on the Monarch Levee from Long Road to Baxter Road. Click here to learn more about the Missouri Greenway: Monarch Chesterfield Levee Trail .


Exploring YOUR Greenways: What to know before you go!

SHARE THE GREENWAYBefore you head out on a greenway, there are some important things you need to know before you go. These guidelines will help you—and everyone else you meet along the way—have a great experience on the trail!

Trail Etiquette

Walk or bike on the right side of the paved trail. If you want to pass someone, announce your presence. Ring your bike bell or say, “on your left” or “passing” so the person you are passing knows you are there. Once you have passed, return to the right lane as quickly as possible.

Hours of Operation

Each greenway is managed in collaboration with different municipalities or other partners across the region. In general, each paved trail is open for you to explore and enjoy no earlier than 30 minutes before sunrise and no later than 30 minutes after sunset. Please double check the signs located at each trailhead to confirm the hours of operation.

No motorized vehicles allowed on the trail

There are no motorized vehicles allowed on the paved trails in the greenways with one exception; motorized wheelchairs. In some cases you may see a see a slow-moving truck on the trail; they are typically service vehicles for landscaping or other work. If you see someone operating a motorized vehicle in an unsafe way—speeding, weaving in and out of people on the trail etc., please call 911.

Wear a helmet every time you ride your bike!

A helmet is one of your most important pieces of safety equipment and can significantly reduce the risk of head or brain injuries when riding a bike. Wearing a helmet also sets an example for children and helps increase visibility. Make sure your helmet is properly fitted; size, position, buckles, side and chin straps. An improperly fitted helmet is the same as not wearing a bike helmet at all!  Click here for a video that shows you how to adjust your helmet properly.


Dogs (and maybe even cats!) are welcome on the greenways as long as they are on a leash. Please keep them on a leash that is six feet or less so they do not wander into the path of other people walking or riding bikes. And speaking of pets, please pick up all of your pet’s waste. No one wants to step in that! Most greenways have trash cans along the way, but be prepared to carry out pet waste in a plastic bag just in case you cannot find a trash can.

Lower the volume on your ear buds

Make sure you set the volume on your ear buds or headphones so you can hear people around you. You don’t want to wander into the path of a vehicle at an intersection or another person running or riding a bike!

Dress for the weather

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather. Synthetic “wicking” fabrics are better choices for shirts and socks—all year round. Be sure to apply sunscreen!

What to bring

Many trails have drinking fountains along the way, but it is a good idea to bring your own water whether you are biking, walking, or running.  Bug spray in the summer is always a good idea. Most people like to have a cell phone in the event of an emergency or to map their route—but make sure it is charged before you go!