Environment Missouri fights for State Parks

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Environment Missouri fights for State Parks

Wolf Howard / News Editor
Christopher King discussed the health benefits of state parks in Environment Missouri’s April 23 press conference.

Wolf Howard / News Editor Christopher King discussed the health benefits of state parks in Environment Missouri’s April 23 press conference.

Wolf Howard / News Editor Christopher King discussed the health benefits of state parks in Environment Missouri’s April 23 press conference.

Wolf Howard / News Editor Christopher King discussed the health benefits of state parks in Environment Missouri’s April 23 press conference.

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Wolf Howard / News Editor Christopher King discussed the health benefits of state parks in Environment Missouri’s April 23 press conference.

Wolf Howard / News Editor
Christopher King discussed the health benefits of state parks in Environment Missouri’s April 23 press conference.

Environment Missouri held a press conference on Tuesday morning, launching a campaign to bring more funding to Missouri state parks to help with repairs and upkeep.

According to Environment Missouri state advocate Stuart Keating, Missouri State Parks receive an average of 18 million visitors every year, and have been consistently ranked among the top four state park systems in the country. However, they are beginning to face issues of aging infrastructure and have accumulated $400 million in backlogs for maintenance and repairs.

“Now, more than ever before, we need leaders on all levels to speak out about importance of state parks on our health and our environment,” Keating said at the press conference.

He also mentioned the positive economic effects of the parks, stating that they bring millions of dollars into the state economy.
Christopher King, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health, talked about the beneficial health aspects to maintaining state parks.

“Access to walking, hiking, and biking trails has been determined to influence levels of physical activity,” King said.

Theresa Reynolds, the president of the Wilderness Adventure Club, provided a student perspective during the conference. “It would be a great loss to SLU students and the St. Louis community if these parks were neglected by our legislature,” Reynolds said.

Environment Missouri will be hosting multiple petition events over the next month to garner more funding support. The timing of the campaign to generate more state parks’ funding is due to an upcoming bond proposal in state legislature.

The Missouri House sent the proposal back to a committee for adjustment on April 23, according to a report by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The proposal would issue $1.2 billion in bonds to “fund construction projects at college campuses, parks and other state facilities.” At least $40 million of the bonds would be allocated to state parks.

“We have to show our legislators, senators, representatives, that Missouri constituents care about state parks, and we use them,” said Kristin McGuire, a senior in the College of Public Health and an intern with Environment Missouri. “The best ways to do that are basically raising awareness, getting petitions signed, things like that.”

The advocacy group is hoping to get Saint Louis University students involved in the campaign. Their first SLU-based event was a Valentine’s Day tabling session asking for petition signatures to support Missouri State Parks. They will also be hosting events in conjunction with Alpha Phi Omega, the service fraternity, as well as the Wilderness Adventure Club and Kayak Club.

Additionally, Pickleman’s, The Shack and Diablito’s have signed coalitions with the group.

“We live in a democracy but we’re really not practicing a democracy unless we’re going out doing things,” McGuire said, encouraging students to get active for things they care about. “Taking part in these kinds of events and expressing your opinions and beliefs to the people you voted into office is incredibly important.”