Rugby field is focus of public comments on master plan – St. Louis Call Newspapers
From Erin Achenbach
A discussion of what Sunset Hills should do with Stephen J. Bander Park, formerly known as Sunset Hills Golf Course, was overshadowed last week by residents worried about rugby.
It was a full house at the Sunset Hills Community Center on July 24th when at least a hundred residents came out for the Park Board Meeting to discuss the new design concept for Bander Park.
The 122 acres that made up the former 1336 W. Watson Road golf course were donated to the city last September by Steve Bander, a doctor from Des Peres. The city took over the land in November.
Planning Design Studio, a St. Louis architectural firm specializing in park planning, worked with Sunset Hills on various park design options. A majority of residents said they would prefer to use the park “more passively”, with walking trails and open spaces, after a survey was conducted both online and by mail in the spring and after a public input meeting.
“The purpose of this meeting is to hear your thoughts on the master plan,” said Scott Emmelkamp, Principal of the Planning Design Studio, at the July 24th meeting. “I want to assure you that nothing you see tonight is set in stone. No decisions will be made tonight. We are only here to receive input on this master plan from the community. “
Four parking concepts were initially introduced in June. Two of the concepts contained a potential football complex, while another only had walking trails and open spaces. The most widely adopted concept, Concept C, includes hiking trails, open spaces for wildflower and prairies development, a fishing pier, a shelter and an 18-hole disc golf course. All four concepts included the 14-acre rugby facility that the city leases to the St. Louis Bombers Rugby Club.
The existing inventory on the property already includes sports fields, sand volleyball courts, a picnic area, a driving range, Andres banquets and catering as well as the Bull Inspirational Trail and playground.
“The map we’re now showing shows 5.3 miles of hiking trails, wildflower prairie areas to … reduce the area the city has to mow,” Emmelkamp said. “We’re just trying to make it a very passive park … we’re going to try to pull in all the input we have tonight, refine it, develop the budget cost and then it will come before the Board of Aldermen.”
Before Gerald Brown, director of parks and recreation, issued a public statement on the proposed master plan, he cautioned him not to consider comments on the rugby fields as they come under the Board of Aldermen.
The public comments, however, centered on concerns about increasing traffic along West Watson Road as well as the flooding.
Sandra Jo Ankney asked if the park required any tree clearing, particularly in the area around the proposed rugby facilities.
The last person to speak during a public comment was Ward 1 Alderman Dee Baebler, who lives in the Tapawingo subdivision. In a July 23 Facebook post, Baebler said she, along with colleague Ward 1 Alderman Ann McMunn and city officials, toured the property with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where the Corps took soil samples and found the land to be Wetland is qualified.