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Meramec Greenway

Newsletter #52, Summer, 2009

Trailhead at Arnolds Grove


A new section of the Meramec Greenway Trail and a public access trailhead have been completed in Valley Park, near the Missouri Highway 141 bridge across the Meramec River. This is the most recent step to complete a continuous trail along the Meramec from the Mississippi River to the City of Pacific. The trailhead is located within Arnolds Grove Park, which is managed by the City of Valley Park.

When Jefferson City first functioned as Missouris capital in 1826, a state road was authorized to link St. Louis with the capital for overland mail and general public access. This east-west road passed north of the Meramec along what is now Manchester Road. From that state road a new road was then built southward initially to the lead mines in the Big River Ozarks. It crossed the Meramec at the ford where Fishpot Creek meets the river, the site that would become Arnolds Landing and is now the new trailheads location. The new road carried considerable traffic, including a stage line, and in 1831 Oliver Dougherty established a ferry at the site.

A century ago, in 1909, the property in this area was owned by Harry Arnold, and his business was geared to the growing recreational trade developing along the Meramec. He referred to it as the Paddle and Saddle Club. The site of the new trailhead was called Arnolds Landing and was where he rented up to 250 canoes. To the east, just beyond the present Highway 141, was his equestrian Speed Ring and stables. West of the Landing, across Fishpot Creek, was Arnolds Grove, known at the time as the Grove. It featured a dance pavilion shaded picnic sites, fishing and swimming. Later would come summer clubhouses and a bowling alley.

The new trailhead is immediately west of Highway 141, located on the top of the new Valley Park levee. It is accessible from Meramec Station Road. Features of the trailhead include asphalt surfaced parking and walks, special lighting, benches and a small pavilion. Page 1

The Old Wagon Bridge was the first bridge across the Meramec at Valley Park. Completed prior to the Civil War it was destroyed in the flood of 1915.

Following the loss of the Old Wagon Bridge in 1915, ferry service was reestablished until a new bridge was constructed.

In the 1850s the Pacific Railroad (now Union Pacific) was constructed through this same area, coming west from St. Louis and descending into the valley from Kirkwood. The railroad would parallel the north side of the Meramec westward as it does now, though it was not originally elevated. Soon to follow was another railroad, the St. Louis & San Francisco (now Burlington Northern), though it crossed the river before heading west on the other side of the valley. The combination of the river, road and railroads triggered the development of a settlement, which grew rapidly. Both railroads constructed train stations and the community became known as Meramec Station (later to be renamed Valley Park), with the north-south road called Meramec Station Road. In 1853 the Missouri legislature authorized the construction of a bridge across the river for Meramec Station Road. From Arnolds Grove approximately one half mile of asphalt trail follows the river eastward, passing beneath Highway 141 and the Burlington Northern Railroad to a boat access at Meramec Landing Park. Construction on the next segment of the Meramec Greenway Trail is scheduled for late 2009 that will continue the trail another mile east to Simpson Park (St. Louis County). Here it will connect to an existing trail that continues east to Greentree Park (Kirkwood).

The dock at Arnolds Landing (above) and fun in the river (below) in the Valley Park area.

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More fun in the Meramec River (above) and ponies at the Saddle Club (below).

In 1909 St. Louis was the fourth largest city in the United States with over 650,000 residents, most clustered around the downtown business district. In this era long before air conditioning, the hot and humid summer climate and urban congestion were trying to St. Louisans. The Meramec River was the perfect escape with its attractive setting, cool breezes, swimming and other activities. And so they came. Up to fifty trains a day would shuttle folks to and from the Meramec. Valley Park and other communities along the river were quick to accommodate them. In addition to Harry Arnolds offerings, Valley Park featured two hotels and hundreds of summer clubhouses. Large companies such as Grand Leader (later Stix, Baer & Fuller) and Union Electric developed employees clubs. Tour boats plied the river itself. The Meramec was THE place to be. The new Arnolds Grove Trailhead also serves as a river access to park visitors. A short walk from the parking lot leads to a gravel beach at the confluence of Fishpot Creek and the Meramec. It is a fun place for fishing and beachcombing.

The cost of the new trailhead and trail segment was approximately $500,000. Funding came from the Great Rivers Greenway District, the City of Valley Park and the St. Louis County Municipal Grants Commission. The Great Rivers Greenway District is a regional park district established in 2000 by the voters of St. Louis City and County and St. Charles County. This project was a part of the Districts regional greenways plan known as the River Ring. To see how this improvement and the Meramec Greenway fits into the River Ring, visit the Great Rivers Greenway website.

And so a century later Valley Park renews its focus on the Meramec River with a new generation of enhancements, these done in coordination with other partner governments in the Meramec Greenway. This also compliments the renaissance of the Meramec River as its water quality and scenic beauty returns. Our thanks to the Meramec Station Historical Society of Valley Park for the historical information for this article. Page 3

The trail at Arnolds Grove.