The memories James S. and Elizabeth McDonnell have of Forest Park span generations. Each one fondly recalls spending whole afternoons here as children, Jim launching off from the Boathouse in an electric boat and Libby picnicking with friends in front of the Cascades waterfall.
Then there were the many visits they took their children on, including to the Saint Louis Zoo and shows at the Muny Opera.
As their children became adults, the couple found themselves in a new role, introducing their young grandchildren to the splendor of the Park. The only challenge, Jim remembers with a laugh, is that he was now tasked with paddling the crew around Post-Dispatch Lake, the electric boats having long since been retired.
“This was our park,” Libby remembers. “Eventually, it started to lose its luster and appeal. Forest Park Forever’s work here has really made a huge difference.”
“It had become quite shabby,” Jim adds. “But now, any day of the year, you see people walking, bicycling, playing golf or enjoying one of the many cultural institutions. Forest Park is a real hub of St. Louis.”
With a transformative $20 million gift to the Forever campaign, Jim, Libby and the JSM Charitable Trust have made an extraordinary investment in Forest Park. The gift will advance the Forever campaign’s urgent restoration projects and bolster the endowment for long-term maintenance.
“Forest Park is for the people of St. Louis,” Jim says. “Both of us have lived all our lives here. It’s a wonderful place to grow up and live — Forest Park adds to that.”
“We’re very patriotic about our city and what we have,” Libby adds. “Having raised children here, there is a sentimental connection to the Park. It’s like Forest Park is family.”
Noting the campaign’s goal of expanding the endowment for the Park, Jim adds, “The challenge now is to raise the endowment so you can continue the maintenance of the Park. Once you start deferring maintenance, you’re going down a slippery slope.”
“We are pleased that our gift can help keep the momentum of what Forest Park Forever has been doing,” Libby says. “There’s so much enthusiasm and real love for Forest Park.”
Through their extraordinary support, the McDonnells are ensuring that this love of the Park will continue for generations to come.