A new public park near the Christian Activity Center could be reality if the city approves a plan.
Chet Cantrell, executive director of the CAC, wants to create a 28-acre park near 560 N. Sixth St. for the city’s kids to use. He currently has 22.3 acres that the CAC has purchased; the remaining 5.7 acres needed are owned by the East St. Louis Housing Authority or under contract.
The city still must approve devoting a portion of Eighth Street and a portion of Ohio Street to complete the plan. The streets would end at the park and the existing sections would be turned in to walkways, Cantrell said.
No city money will be used to build the park.
The park will include a soccer and baseball field, a walking/running path, an outdoor chapel, splash pads, a flower garden, a botanical garden, an edible garden for the community to grow and sell food, a living laboratory for life sciences, an outdoor stage for entertainment, Zumba and other exercise.
“All children create themselves out of their environment,” Cantrell said. “All children define themselves by what they see around them. If everything is broken, untended, that affects how they see themselves. What we know of kids, humans, cities and counties is growth follows beauty. I want our kids to see their worth in the environment around them.”
The cost to build the park is roughly $4.5 million, but thanks to support from volunteers, the community and civic groups and donations, Cantrell said the remaining money needed is around $2 million.
All children create themselves out of their environment. All children define themselves by what they see around them. If everything is broken, untended, that affects how they see themselves. What we know of kids, humans, cities and counties is growth follows beauty. I want our kids to see their worth in the environment around them.
Chet Cantrell, Christian Activity Center
“People have been good to us,” Cantrell said. “We’ve taken 40 truck loads of debris, took down eight derelict houses, removed 2,000 tires that were strewn all over.”
Irma Golliday, executive director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, is excited about the proposed park because there currently are none in the area.
“There is no park within walking distance for the kids in that area. Turning empty space into something positive is 100 percent a good decision,” Golliday said.
“If it will keep young people off the street and give them something to do to use all of the energy they have, I am for it. I am also in favor of families spending time together. This will create that opportunity,” Golliday said. “When young people come together they learn to play together, share and interact with each other.”
The park is also drawing praise from the city.
“The kids will be getting something they deserve,” East St. Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks said. “The community and families can get together there, enjoy themselves, learn some things, and participate with each other. It’s a good thing for the city.
“The CAC has had plans to build that park for a long time. It is part of the plan and vision I have had for a while to create and restore neighborhoods one neighborhood at a time,” she said.
Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503