Cuts proposed to secure funding for park rangers over safety concerns

ST. LOUIS – With the temperatures heating up, so are concerns about crime and safety within two St. Louis City parks.

Longtime north city resident Leander Young brings his kids to O’Fallon Park every now and then for fishing. He said he would go to the park more often but has his hesitations.

“You go to the south side, it’s all good over there. You come to the north side, it’s like they don’t care about the north side,” he said. “You have broken glass all around, you’ve got trash lying all over.”

Young isn’t the only one who believes the park could use some help.

Alderman John Collins Mohammed said he’s concerned about the safety in his ward’s park.

“Crime is skyrocketing everywhere you look especially in our parks when you have no security,” said Collins-Mohammed. “I think that is unacceptable.”

Alderman Brandon Bosley has the same worries about Fairgrounds Park.

“We just put in over a $1 million in the pool area in Fairgrounds revitalizing some things in the pool house, redoing the bathrooms,” Bosley said. “But we got people breaking in. They didn’t deface it, but they played around it and that’s a hazard; anything can happen.”

Both elected officials are proposing to add three full-time park rangers.

Collins-Mohammed said he wants to cut the Office of Special Events, which is under the Department of Public Safety, to help secure funding.

“The Office of Special events has two personnel,” Collins-Mohammed said. “One makes $98,000, the other makes roughly $60,000, so I’m proposing transferring those allocations to park rangers at the police department so we can ensure safety and security.”

Right now, all citywide parks are open until 10 p.m., but the two men believe changing the hours to close earlier won’t curb the crime issue.

“I can propose a curfew at 6 o’clock, but if there’s no ranger here to make sure that there’s no one out here in the park after 6, then it doesn’t matter,” he said.

The proposal still has a long way to go, including making its way through the St. Louis Board of Aldermen’s Ways and Means Committee.

If and when it's approved, about $150,000 would be set aside each fiscal year to help pay for the three full-time rangers.