By Eric X. Viccaro
Ste. Genevieve Herald
Ste. Genevieve residents Nick and Mary Donze are putting their extensive park planning experience to good use.
This past Monday in the Ste. Genevieve Fire Department conference room, Nick Donze briefed the Parks and Recreation board and other city leaders on possible future plans for Pere Marquette Park during a special meeting.
“My wife and I are (both) invested in park improvements on many levels,” Donze said. The couple has been associated with parks since the 1980s from Jefferson City to St. Charles and the state system.
Donze, of Donze Park Planning, LLC, commented that open spaces are more vital than ever – especially as Ste. Genevieve copes with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
Donze recalled taking swimming lessons at Marquette Park during his youth, saying the facility has been through “ups and downs” in terms of activity.
Currently, the extreme northern portion of Marquette Park is primarily a wooded area. The park features a nature area, picnic shelter, active recreation area with soccer and T-ball fields and a central core area.
In addition, there’s an AT&T subleased cell phone tower in the park’s extreme western boundary. The facility is served by two entrances, one on Main Street closer to the Mississippi River and another off White Sands Road.
“The sky’s the limit,” Donze said during the meeting, which featured about 20 people.
Ste. Genevieve alderperson Ashley Armbruster invited residents Mike Keeley and Estella Thitakom to the meeting because of their interest in the park.
One of the main points Nick Donze told the board was to create multi-purpose areas – like a slide he showed from Perryville with a combination soccer field, volleyball and basketball court.
Some improvements are needed to the T-ball field. The basketball court needs resurfacing and improved handicap accessibility.
“Shelter areas are in decent shape,” Donze noted. “We’re going to preserve dedicated areas and try to take advantage of existing facilities. This project can be simple or complex in scope.”
The hope is to expand natural areas, with native plants and grasses and the opportunity to have interpretive programs.
Brown-eyed Susans, purple coneflowers and little bluestem are three examples of native plants that would thrive inside Marquette Park.
Other possibilites include a splash pad in the core area, a ropes course, adventure-themed playground, a shelter large enough for private parties and possible weddings and an ampitheatre for movies and concerts.
As explained in previous stories found in the Herald, showing movies in the city can be a chore due to location concerns.
Donze pointed out the current trail system needs a massive upgrade. The current network is roughly 4,000 feet, Donze reported.
Trails need to come in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. It needs widening from about four feet to 6-10 feet. He recommended concrete over asphalt since the former would hold up better than the latter.
Donze urged city representatives to begin with the trail system because it can be used by everyone – walkers, runners, cyclists, parents with strollers and public works employees.
Mary Donze also chimed in, explaining the city must address accessibility concerns inside Marquette Park.
She also discussed its importance at length as part of a grant writing process, and there are two types available.