There’s a lot that goes on in Forest Park every day. Many who work nearby park their cars there during working hours, and there’s always at least one jogger on the trails that lace its grounds, a wide variety of birds, fish, reptiles and mammals inhabiting its spaces and frequently humans who spend the night there.
Today I drove to the park from my studio in the north via Delmar, Union Avenue and Lindell Boulevard, passing those grand old homes across Lindell from Murphy Lake. A dozen or two Canada Geese harried the grass there and a blue jay descended in a flash of brilliant color to pounce on dinner before leaping back into the air. I parked on Grand drive and walked along the bank by the Metrolink tracks toward Kingshighway. There is a path of sorts there, probably not sanctioned by the powers that be, but rather worn by the feet of those who camp there. And there are many, it seems, who do just that.
Perhaps it is because there are low bushes there, that in warmer seasons offer some measure of concealment, but whatever the reason, a lot of the homeless make the Metrolink banks their residence. I found quite a collection of bottles, cans, clothing, backpacks, cardboard, shoes, and books and even sleeping bags there, some I know to be recent and some just where they were left however many months ago. Monday night is my night as overnight staff at a homeless shelter, so I know many of the homeless by name, and perhaps some of those I know have slept in these open places. And all this takes place right across the street from one of the largest and wealthiest organizations in the city - the Washington University Medical Center.
My walk today was relatively short; just about two miles of wandering through brush, and walking along Kingshighway, the eastern border of the park, meandering toward the Steinberg Skating Rink, where I paused to watch the young lovers glide hand in hand while small children and older ones as well, went down on the ice with a satisfying thud. I could have watched the fun all afternoon, but I had promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.