ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – John Karel announced this week that he will step down as the director of Tower Grove Park at the end of this year.
It’s a position that Karel’s held for 27 years, and he’ll stick around long enough to help pick his own successor.
His advice for that person?
Keep striving to not only maintain, but to improve.
“If you’re going to have a liveable city, there’s only one way to do that and it’s to have beautiful, safe, clean public park spaces,” he says.
Karel says working to maintain and improve the sprawling 289-acre park is a never-ending process, which suffered setbacks during a severe hailstorm in 2011 and the drought of 2012.
“There’s still a number of projects that need to be done, but I think we’ve made substantial progress,” he says. “I think the park looks good and it has been reintroduced in a very positive way to the community.”
Tower Grove is second only to Forest Park as the region’s largest park, and attracts nearly 2.5 million visitors a year—five times what that figure was then Karel became director in 1987.
During his tenure, Tower Grove was also named as a National Historic Landmark.
Through it all, Karel says he’s always felt the historic weight of maintaining Henry Shaw’s vision for the Park.
“How many philanthropists could look back 150 years later and see those gifts functioning pretty much exactly as he had hoped they would?” he says. “It’s a remarkable legacy.”
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