Citygarden: The Best Attraction in St. Louis


LAN writer Cameron Rodman pays a visit to Citygarden.

Coming to St. Louis, I expected to be overwhelmingly impressed by the Gateway Arch and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial grounds. The American monument and National Expansion Memorial have stood the test of time representing the history of America. I was excited to learn more about my country’s history and gain some knowledge of how westward expansion advanced. Instead, upon my visit, I found that the new jewel in St. Louis is Citygarden, a 2.9 acre urban park.

Opened in 2009, Citygarden is the newest addition to the city’s “Gateway Mall” which starts at the Mississippi River and Gateway Arch then travels west 16 blocks up into the city. The park, which was designed by Virginia-basedNelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, was a joint effort between the City of St. Louis and the Gateway Foundation.

Citygarden. Photo credit: Cameron Rodman

Embracing Free Play

As the afternoon heat rises and work ends for the day, people begin filling the park slowly. Families come to the park with their children to play on and in the fountains which were originally designed to be aesthetic features. While other cities have grown accustomed to preventing community members from swimming in urban park fountains, the park authorities have embraced this cultural playfulness as a defining trait and accommodated the people with the appropriate staff.

Fountains used as playpools. Photo credit: Cameron Rodman

You won’t find the word “no” posted throughout the park’s grounds either. The fountains have become pools to the swarms of children who descend on the park each day. People play in the pools and the whimsical LED- lit splash pad day and night. The programmed lighting display in the splash pad each night is a fantastic sight to those out enjoying the nightlife.

Led lit water fountains. Photo credit: Cameron Rodman

A Vibrant Community and Eye Catching Sculptures

The community really makes a strong showing, socializing with one another along the granite and local yellow limestone benches, strolling hand-in-hand on the main walk, or by enjoying the numerous sculptures which populate the entire park.

The sculptures throughout the park are an avant-garde display which brings humor and levity to the urban environment. Decapitated heads, giant white rabbits, metal sumo wrestlers, giant horses, and real-time video feeds which are displayed on a giant screen all add interest and provide people with opportunities for discussion and photo ops with those they care about.

Sculpture at Citygarden. Photo credit: Cameron Rodman

Decapitated head sculpture. Photo credit: Cameron Rodman

Sculpture at Citygarden. Photo credit: Cameron Rodman

Meaningful Design

The design and execution of the design, which is equally as impressive, provide visitors with a variety of textures, colors, scents, and more. Unrestricted by a tight civic budget, the landscape architects produced a design which cuts no corners.

The park’s layout and elements serve as a reflection of the region’s geography. A high stone wall, known as ‘The River Bluffs,’ represent the city’s identity as the ‘Mound City’. ‘The Floodplain’, which is located between curving limestone walls on the north side of the park and a long curving granite seat wall on the south side, represents the bluffs of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

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Real-time video feeds at the Citygarden. Photo credit: Cameron Rodman

Curving decomposed granite pathways hugged with lush plantings cut circuitous routes through the site which calls to memory the oxbows in the waterways of the Mississippi River. Approximately 75% of the plantings are native species pointing visitors to the regional ecology which many urban visitors rarely experience in their day to day lives.

Planting at Citygarden. Photo credit: Cameron Rodman

Citygarden. Photo credit: Cameron Rodman

The Rabbit Situation

Over the past years the park staff has tried to solve an ongoing problem of urban rabbit populations which are located throughout the park. Of their 50+ original plant species installed, almost 20 were completely wiped out due to the rabbits’ voracious appetites for leafy greens. Currently, the park is conducting trial plots throughout the site’s rain gardens with hopes of finding species which aren’t as appealing to the local wildlife.

Is this what you call a BIG rabbit problem? Photo credit: Cameron Rodman

The addition of the park has increased the economic vitality of this portion of downtown. Hotel rentals jumped over 15% in the immediate vicinity over the past four years and restaurants have begun to move closer to the park. The more impressive result is not necessarily found in these numbers however. Now, the people of the city have a place where they can take their families and avoid fighting through crowds of tourists at the Gateway Arch. They have a place that they can call their own. It is their front yard.

Article written by Cameron Rodman

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