High-intensity, infrared security cameras may be added to Jensen Point Park in Pacific in an attempt to better protect the 81-year-old stone lookout structure from graffiti and vandalism.
Pacific aldermen discussed the number of proposed surveillance cameras, locations and costs at a recent board meeting.
If ultimately approved, security cameras likely are to be placed at the park’s gazebo, parking lot and surrounding boundary areas.
Chris Bay, general partner and senior engineer of Pacific-based Bay’s ET, estimated the cost of the new security equipment project to be $13,500, including a flagpole at the park overlook, which also would serve as a camera mount location.
Cameras under consideration are expected to provide for night vision, flood lighting, zoom features, 360-degree angling and police officers’ ability to speak to trespassers at unauthorized visitors’ times. Additionally, vehicular license plates will be legible through the cameras to police from their office.
The frequently visited 2.8-acre landmark site at East Osage Street originally was a project of the Henry Shaw Gardenway Association, whose members promoted the route between the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis and what was then called the Arboretum (currently named Shaw Nature Reserve) in Gray Summit.
Members of Civilian Conservation Corps Company 1770, under the supervision of National Park Service managers, built the hilltop stone tower, patios and steps to be a stopping point along the Gardenway and Route 66.
Jensen Point’s original grand opening was on Memorial Day in 1939.
The lookout tower is named for Lars Peter Jensen, the first president of the Gardenway Association and manager of the Arboretum for 18 years. He was born in Denmark in 1867, and died in Gray Summit in 1941. Inside the stone tower is a memorial plaque dedicated to him.
The once Route 66 roadside stop with notable grandeur was neglected at a certain point, and then abused by vandals, said Wayne Winchester, who purchased the property in 1991 because it was included in the land he bought for his office on Osage Street.
Little did Winchester know that the purchase would launch a 24-year love affair with the point.
In addition to personally guarding the historic structure, Winchester said he received “interesting requests” through the years for its use, such as the time a California modeling agency wanted to do a nude photo shoot at the top.
“They were featuring nude models at all of the Route 66 iconic locations across the United States. My wife said I made a good choice by declining that one,” he said.
One practice by visitors to the tower became a recurring problem — spraying or painting personal graffiti on the wooden structure. Some local residents have shared stories about visiting the point on their wedding anniversaries to add a new year to their original “artwork.”
Over time, however, even some of the initial stones of the tower were taken or thrown down the hill. Winchester arranged to secure matching stones from a nearby bridge built at the same time in the 1930s, when that bridge was disassembled. With that effort, he tried to preserve the lookout’s structural integrity.
Winchester sold Jensen Point to the city of Pacific in 2015. With the help of Great Rivers Greenway managers, Pacific representatives received a grant from St. Louis County Municipal Parks Grant Commission to help with the purchase and restoration of this historic landmark.
Jensen Point Park reopened to the public May 30, 2016, after the structures were repaired by city staffers and volunteers helped clear away brush and scrub.
City staffers recently added electric and water to the Jensen Point overlook.
Pacific Mayor Steve Myers wants to dedicate the proposed new flag pole to Winchester and his wife, Teri, in honor of his family’s longstanding devotion to saving and conserving the crumbling Jensen Point.
With the feeling being mutual, Winchester committed to donating $4,000 to the security project.
The proposed security camera addition comes with a positive recommendation from the city’s park board members.
Myers said another discussion also needs to occur with board members of the East Osage Community Improvement District into which Jensen Point falls.
City-authorized visitors’ hours to Jensen Point Park are 6 a.m. until one-half hour after sunset each day.