Spring is off to a great start at Marquette Park! Neighbors are already taking advantage of the nicer weather to get out and enjoy the space that sits at the center of Dutchtown. We’ve long recognized Marquette Park as an incredible asset for our neighborhood, but there is plenty of work yet to be done.
Marquette Community Day Kickball Tournament
So far, we’ve already held a kickball tournament in support of Marquette Community Day. MCD is a massive back to school event that takes place in the park in August. They provide backpacks, school supplies, clothing, haircuts, and more to help Dutchtown kids start their school year off right. We had sixteen teams take to the fields and dozens of spectators came to root them on. See more photos here.
The official tournament was originally scheduled for the end of March, but that was a blowout—sustained winds of 30 miles per hour with some serious gusts made it nearly impossible to play. We postponed the games, but we still made the most of a day at the park. Neighbors played music and grilled wings and brats, kids and parents played, and someone had the foresight to bring kites!
More Sunday Fun at Marquette Park
We had so much fun on these Sunday afternoons that we want to make it a regular thing. Coming soon: South Side Sundays at Marquette Park! Keep an eye out for more details to come.
Sundays are a great time to visit Marquette Park. Enjoy the playground and the green space, and stick around to catch a Liga Latina soccer game.
Summer Fun On the Way
We’re excited to announce that for a third year in a row, we’ll be hosting Movie Nights at Marquette Park! These events have brought neighbors together, even through the pandemic, to enjoy the park, learn about community activities, and take in some family friendly entertainment. We’ll have three Movie Nights in the park this summer:
- Saturday, June 5th
- Saturday, July 24th
- Saturday, August 28th
We’re hoping to make that final summer Movie Night a Dive-In Movie at the pool—which we’re so happy to see reopen this summer! Having a big, free, public pool right in the middle of our neighborhood is an amazing asset for the kids and families in Dutchtown.
And the Marquette Recreation Center is another great resource for our neighborhood kids. This summer, the Rec Center will host basketball, boxing, and other camps that are filling up fast.
Partners for Marquette Park
We’ve got a dedicated group of neighbors, including Allies of Marquette Park and Dutchtown South Community Corporation, doing their best to reactivate the park. The park is an invaluable asset for Dutchtown, one of the densest, youngest, and poorest communities on the South Side.
Dutchtown South has organized the Common Sound Festival at the park in September, which brings neighbors together through music and dance. They’ve organized a storybook walk to bring the joy of reading to neighborhood kids. And DSCC has been alongside our neighbors as we continue to push for improvements at Marquette.
Allies of Marquette Park held a fundraiser in 2019 that raised over $7,000 to provide chairs and lounges for the otherwise unfurnished pool. We’re hoping to put the new furniture in place as the pool opens this year. AMP has been at the forefront of planning events and attracting interest and investment in Marquette Park.
Challenges at Marquette Park
While we love to accentuate the positives in Marquette Park and throughout Dutchtown, we have to note that we’ve struggled to get the needed improvements we want to see at Marquette. Marquette Park is improving through hard work from our neighbors and in spite of a number of obstacles.
Pains at the Pool
The Marquette Park Pool has long been surrounded by a chain link fence topped with strands of barbed wire. For years, we have requested that the barbed wire come down. It won’t effectively prevent the occasional trespassing that may occur, and in fact may be a greater liability to the city (read our letter on that subject).
But more importantly, fencing in our kids and families with such harsh and unpleasant surroundings conveys a message that pool patrons are less than welcome. Our pool should not look like a prison. We’ve asked time and time again for the barbed wire to be addressed, and received little in response aside from a few broken promises.
Aside from the barbed wire and the lack of pool furnishings, the locker rooms (and the Rec Center which contains them) are in rough shape. The facilities could use major upgrades, but instead suffer from a lack of even basic maintenance.
Struggles for Soccer Players
Allies of Marquette Park have also been working to get improvements to the soccer facilities at the park. Though the soccer field is regularly utilized by Liga Latina, youth soccer teams, and neighbors just out to kick the ball around, the facilities are nearly nonexistent. A couple of rotten wood goal posts without nets mark either end of the pitch, which is pockmarked by potholes and puddles. The players often come out ahead of time to mow the field and paint lines themselves.
Making Due on Movie Nights
Since we schedule our Movie Nights far in advance, we give ample notice to the city that a large group of residents will be in the park at a specified time. We call months, weeks, and days in advance to request that trash is removed and grass is cut. These requests usually go unheeded.
Before every Movie Night, our volunteers make sure to allot time to pick up the trash that accumulates around the Field House and across the park. Trash cans are usually overflowing, so we must pack the trash up and take it out to nearby alley dumpsters. To make sure we leave the park better than we found it, our volunteers and a hired crew stay into the dark to ensure everything is properly cleaned up.
We also invite the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to send community engagement officers to our Movie Nights—not necessarily out of security concerns, but rather to give the police an opportunity to meet and interact with the community they serve. The police arrive, station themselves at the edge of the park nearly out of view, and never get out of their vehicles.
Field House Failings
The beautiful Marquette Park Field House was renovated at significant cost within the last decade. However, it was severely underutilized and quickly fell into disrepair, either due to the quality of the rehab work or the lack of basic ongoing maintenance. Elevators and air conditioning systems have failed, making the Field House inaccessible and inhospitable for events we may have liked to hold there—provided the city would provide a permit and work with us on the exorbitant rental fees.
The restrooms in the Field House are also malfunctioning. As a result, we have to provide portable restrooms at all of our events. The cost to do so comes from an already tiny non-profit budget. (If you’d like to help us stretch that budget a bit further, you can donate here.)
The Future of Marquette Park
We have a community in Dutchtown that wants and needs to use Marquette Park. We have a strong and growing contingent of neighbors and community stakeholders putting forward their own time, sweat, and funds to do the best we can with our limited resources.
But city leadership hasn’t invested the time or resources to develop this wonderful asset in the center of Dutchtown that could serve so many people who need places to go and things to do. Marquette Park sits in the middle of a neighborhood that has more people per square mile than anywhere else in the city. Nearly 40% of our neighbors are under the age of 18, and median household incomes are well below average for St. Louis.
Dutchtown neighbors deserve to feel welcome and safe at Marquette Park. We want grass cut, trash taken out, and barbed wire removed. We want a clean and safe Rec Center. We want functioning restrooms. Our neighbors and our neighborhood deserve these things.
Alderwoman Cara Spencer in the 20th Ward and Alderman Shane Cohn in the 25th Ward have both supported and pushed for improvements at Marquette Park. But it’s important to note that most of the directions and decisions regarding city parks come from the executive branch—the Mayor’s Office and the Board of Public Service.
With the inauguration of Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, we’ve made an appeal to her and the city for renewed interest and investment in Marquette Park. We hope we have a willing and able partner in Mayor Jones and her team. We hope for a commitment to building a better Marquette Park and a stronger Dutchtown. Mayor Jones and the City of St. Louis will have a dedicated group of neighbors behind them. We hope to see them here soon.
If you’re reading this and you’re not in the Mayor’s Office, but you’d still like to help, you can make a one-time or sustaining donation to help us carry on our work in Marquette Park and throughout Dutchtown.