Despite bluff residents’ concerns, Campisi supports legislation to accept land for park

By Alyson E. Raletz

Despite the concerns of Oakville residents who live on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, said he supports legislation accepting land to be used as a new county park.

Campisi introduced legislation last week during a County Council meeting that would allow the county to accept a 292.81-acre tract donation from Twin Hollow Associates.

This Mississippi riverfront property is owned by George Foster of Jefferson Barracks Marine Service and is south of the Cliff Cave Park property line. It is undetermined whether this land will become an annex of Cliff Cave Park or if it will serve as a separate park.

For nearly two years, Cliff Cave Park was being filled and raised 20 feet out of a flood plain. Campisi recently met with bluff residents who became alarmed earlier this year when they noticed Bussen Quarries trucks were hauling shot rock across the Cliff Cave Park property line and started raising out of the flood plain adjacent riverfront property owned by Foster.

Though the land is in a flood plain, bluff residents told Campisi that they are concerned that the property they overlook could be rezoned for some type of industrial use because it no longer will be in a flood plain.

While Foster is donating about 293 acres to the county, he will retain a 285-acre section of property situated between the Cliff Cave Park property line and the land that is being donated.

It is this middle section of property, adjacent to Cliff Cave Park, that concerns residents.

Foster also will donate parts of this middle section of land to link hiking trails from Cliff Cave Park to the new park or annex.

If the legislation accepting the gift is approved, Foster also will construct, at no expense to the county, an 8- to 10-acre fishing lake in the new park.

Foster previously had until March 31 to finish raising this middle section of land out of the flood plain, but according to the legislation, he will have two more years to complete adding the fill. Foster is continuing to raise the property he is not donating 20 feet out of the flood plain to help link the hiking trails, according to Campisi, but bluff residents questioned this explanation when they met with him Dec. 3.

Campisi told the Call he believes residents have legitimate concerns over the middle piece of property, but while he is the district’s councilman, he will not approve any rezoning for the land.

Furthermore, he said the new park land will be beneficial to south county.

“People have concerns about what’s going to happen to that middle piece of property that Foster’s keeping,” Campisi told the Call. “I did talk with the county counselor. Whatever Foster would build on that middle property would have to go through the planning process with the Planning Commission.

“I’m still comfortable supporting the donation. People around there are gaining a park, they’re gaining a trail, a 10-acre fishing lake, a shelter … It’s a good thing … How many people do you know donate a park?” Campisi said.

He said he was aware of the bluff residents’ concerns, but he would continue to support the legislation.

“This is giving people a park instead of development, that’s just the way it is,” he said.

He said he fully supports the donation, but his recent meeting with bluff residents brought about some questions — questions he couldn’t answer.

The donation legislation is scheduled for final approval by the end of 2003, but Campisi still plans to invite Foster and representatives from the parks department, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bussen Quarries to a public meeting to address residents’ concerns about potential development and environmental hazards on the property Foster will continue to own that is adjacent to Cliff Cave park.

The meeting is scheduled at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 21, at Point Elementary School on Telegraph Road.

County Department of Parks and Recreation Director Genie Zakrzewski told the Call she also was aware of many of the residents’ concerns, but she did not know and was unable to comment on Foster’s plans for the section of land he plans to keep.

“It is still private property,” she said. “I’m not privy to that information. If it does become Flood Plain Non-Urban, I don’t know what his (Foster’s) plans are.”

She added Foster’s donation is a generous gift.

“Three hundred acres is a pretty good chunk,” she said. “It’s a nice-sized donation.”

She said she is pleased with the donation because it comes with a lot of green space, wetlands and the option of connection trail systems along the Mississippi River.

Already, she has a lot of ideas to put the land to good use, including constructing boardwalks along the river and through the wetlands to create some educational and nature study opportunities for the community.

Also, Zakrzewski said she would like to develop family picnic areas, shelters and continue the hiking trails through the park.

She told the Call if the council approves the donation, the parks department will wait until it formulates a master plan in 2005 before it decides whether to use the new land as an annex to Cliff Cave Park or to form a new park.

During this planning phase, Zakrzewski said she and other parks department officials will determine how the new park will look and what amenities to provide.

She said she hopes construction to prepare the land for either scenario will begin in 2006 — based on finances and the results from the 2005 master plan.

The donated land, unlike the 285-acre parcel Foster will retain that is immediately south of Cliff Cave Park, will not be raised because it is in a flood way, she said. The 285-acre parcel sits in a flood plain and is allowed to be built up out of the plain.

Regulations, however, prohibit floodway land from being raised to prevent any obstruction to the flow of water during a flood.

Under the agreement, Foster will retain a 40-foot wide strip of river front land adjacent to the new park so that he may continue his mooring operation.

Zakrzewski said she did not foresee barges being so close to the park as a problem. She said the barges typically are tied up and float 20 to 30 feet or more away from the land out on the water and wait for clearance to move back in the main river flow, which would not affect the park or its visitors.

Final consideration for the gift legislation is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 23, in the County Council Chambers of the County Administration Building, 41 S. Central Ave., Clayton.