Residents’ Input During Planning Helped Create a Civic Space Honored by The Urban Land Institute
Traffic zooms past an industrial cityscape along North Skinker Parkway—until it reaches the intersection with Etzel Avenue, where there’s a colorful oasis geared toward pint-sized pedestrians.
Trojan Park is tucked just within the Wellston city limits on one of the main thoroughfares between North St. Louis County and the city. The one-acre space opened four years ago, the result of an unusual $2 million collaboration between Beyond Housing and several partners:
- Great Rivers Greenway, which secured and donated the land and developed the St. Vincent Greenway that connects Trojan Park with Forest Park and, ultimately, will reach with the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus seven miles away.
- The National Recreation and Park Association and its partner organizations, which built the park from scratch after the organization hosted its 2016 convention in St. Louis.
- The Municipal Park Grant Commission of St. Louis County, which provided $315,000 in funding.
- St. Louis County and the City of Wellston, which committed to maintaining the park.
- Lamar Johnson Collaborative, which designed the project.
As an organization, our work focuses on building up our underserved communities in order to create a stronger, more equitable, and prosperous St. Louis for all. To some, a new park might seem like a small step. But in addition to strengthening families, removing blight and revitalizing these communities is hugely important. Along with new home construction and commercial and economic development, new parks and greenspaces are an essential part of this transformation.
To begin the project, we reached out to gather input from families—especially children—for the park’s design. With its basketball courts, playgrounds and picnic areas, Trojan Park has become a beacon of activity for community residents—proving the value of involving residents in its conceptualization.
The park’s value has just been recognized nationally by the Urban Land Institute as one of two 2020 Urban Open Space Award winners. This was a huge honor for the little civic space, which competed against more than 50 applicants from around the world.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled for Wellston and the surrounding community to receive such a prestigious award,” said Chris Krehmeyer, Beyond Housing’s President and CEO. “And we are thrilled to have such a beautiful, dynamic, glorious park in a community that has a fair number of struggles.”
The 2020 Urban Open Space Award comes with a $10,000 gift to the Great Rivers Greenway Foundation to help care for the park.
“The Trojan Park project is a testament to the power of what’s possible when people come together,” Krehmeyer said. “In this case, our community engagement was with more kids than adults. The equipment was designed by young people. They worked out the shapes, colors, and structures—including basketball courts at a time when many of them are being torn out elsewhere. We helped show them what they could wish for.”