A park that never became a park raised some questions recently after a resident learned that it was shown on the Pacific page of a 1919 Franklin County Atlas.
Melvin Laretto, who lives on Park Street, mentioned to Billy Murphy that the old atlas showed a park at the northeast edge of Pacific, where today there is nothing but trees and woods. It was beyond the east end of Park Street, where Laretto lives.
One square block between Park Street, Bellevue, Elm and the St. Louis County line in the T.M. Alt Addition of the “City of Pacific, platted as Franklin,” drawing of the city was designated as a city park in the official county atlas.
The site is now a heavily wooded, undeveloped tract, nestled against rows of neat well-kept houses.
Laretto didn’t realize he was going to start a full-scale inquiry into the undeveloped park when he mentioned it to Murphy. He said he kept the well-preserved atlas and looked at it from time to time because it included a picture of his grandfather, Otto Pfeiffer, who had a farm on Fiddle Creek.
“I knew about the park, but hadn’t thought about it recently,” he said. “I’m not sure why I mentioned it that day to get Billy (Murphy) all fired up about it.”
Murphy was baffled by the idea of an undeveloped park in Pacific. He had read in the newspaper that Pacific’s new comprehensive plan called for a series of small neighborhood parks to provide residents in each neighborhood the ability to walk to a city park.
Murphy asked The Missourian to explore why the city had not developed the park in that area where there are no parks. He speculated that when T.M. Alt drew the lots for his addition in perfect rows, and included the donated park site, that was probably why he named the street Park Street.
If the property were to be developed as a park, patrons would be able to enter the north side of the park from Park Street — a three-block-long street that stretches from Interstate 44 on the west to the undeveloped area, which is east of the alignment with North Olive Street.
Laretto speculated that the one-block park area would occupy between 2 and 3 acres.
Ed Gass, former public works director, said he knew the area had once been designated for a park. He said he thought the original site set aside for a park was larger. He recalled that someone had donated 4 or 5 acres to the city for a park long before his time with the city, but the park was never developed.
Gass said the donated parcel stretched into St. Louis County, which is left blank on the atlas page. Gass, who also lives nearby, said the steeply sloped property would be a challenge to develop for recreation use.
“Actually it’s like a billy goat ravine up there; it goes and down and would be tough to develop as a park,” he said.
Gass said he was uncertain whether the city still owned the land. It abuts, or is very near, a tract of land that former Mayor Bill Wiest purchased and built a house on.
“It’s undeveloped, but I’m not sure whether the city still owns it,” he said.