At the dedication ceremony for the opening of Forest Park in 1876, the then-presiding judge of St. Louis County (this was before the city/county split) Chauncy F Schultz said,
I present to you, the people of the County of St. Louis, your own, this large and beautiful Forest Park for the enjoyment of yourselves, your children and your children’s children forever . . . The rich and poor, the merchant and mechanic, the professional man and the day laborer, each with his family and lunch basket, can come here and enjoy his own . . . all without stint or hinderance . . . and there will be no notice put up, ‘Keep Off the Grass.’
Forest Park Forever, the civic association largely responsible for the park’s renaissance starting in 1986, claims Forest Park attracts 13 million visitors each year. This is, I think, a fuzzy number which doesn’t necessarily mean 13 million different people in the park, in fact I think they count me every time I show up, which is bound to skew the numbers a bit. Still, we do attract a variety of people. Today my hound Rigby and I went scouting for out-of-state license plates. In one small section of the park, between Jefferson Lake, the Central Fields, and the planetarium, we encountered cars from nine states besides Missouri, the farthest one being Idaho, and the closest, naturally, Illinois.
This did not impress Rigby, though, who, in his usual style, kept his nose to the ground in search of whatever it is he spends his time searching for. He was particularly intent, it seems, on seeking traces of other creatures and leaving his calling card in places they had visited. We walked about a mile today, along the edge of the Highlands golf course, past Jefferson Lake, and around the McDonnell Planetarium to Aviation Field before turning back.The horses at the St. Louis City Police stables (originally built as a flight hangar airplanes there at Aviation Field) did fascinate him, however, and he stood stock still for quite some time watching them.
It was on the way back that we met Joe Kriegesmann, the proprietor of The Facility, “a legal, fully legitimate venue dedicated to BDSM educational workshops and gatherings” and who, according to the Riverfront Times, is also known as "Satan's Master.” He had just returned from Barnes Hospital where he had taken a suicidal friend for treatment, he told me.
By that time, though, it was time to zip back to the studio for a four o’clock appointment, so I cajoled Rigby back into my pickup truck and sang mournful country ballads about dogs, pick-up trucks and lack of beer as we rolled out of beautiful Forest Park, America’s premier urban park, and onto the gritty streets of America’s Most Dangerous City.