A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held recently at Battery Park, located at 6041 North Lindbergh Boulevard behind Complete Auto Body, to unveil this lovely place of solitude open for use by the general public.
The idea for a memorial honoring fallen police officers, firefighters and paramedics came from Bob Barks, owner of Complete Auto Body who donated the land for Battery Park. According to Barks, “In early 2007, I suffered a near-fatal heart attack. It occurred while my wife was driving our car. Luckily there was a police officer right in front of us. There was a nurse getting off duty from a nearby hospital. And, a paramedic was behind us. They all helped get me to the hospital in time to save my life, and I’m perfect today because of the great medical care I received.”
After this incident, Barks started asking himself what he could do for The Backstoppers. Since a police officer and paramedic helped save his life, he wanted to show them his gratitude. “I said to myself I’m going to do something special. So I built this Battery Park. Although some people questioned my decision since it cost money to maintain a park, I did it anyway,” said Barks. “I’m not a rich guy but you know what, I’m going to say ‘thanks.’ I don’t know how else to say it.”
His intent was to create a place of solitude where family members and friends of fallen police officers, firefighters and paramedics could come to sit down and remember the ones they lost. In the future, Barks plans to install a memorial wall made of a 4′ x 8′ slab of granite that lists all the names of fallen heroes in the St. Louis area.
“Our true heroes are police officers, firefighters and paramedics. Many times they are overlooked and taken for granted. But without these folks, where would we be? Our country would be in serious shape without these dedicated men and women in uniform. It is my honor, and it is today, to keep this park going and to make it flourish,” noted Barks.
The idea to create a community garden at Battery Park originally came about through conversations between Hazelwood Police Chief Carl Wolf and CSBG Director David Barnes of The CAA of St. Louis County. At the time, they were partnering with the Hazelwood School District in developing a Youth Leadership Academy. This program helps kids who are having difficulties staying in school. The leadership curriculum gets them involved not only in academic activities at school, but also in the community doing community service projects.
Barnes told Chief Wolf about the CAA’s new garden program that was being funded with federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) monies received by the St. Louis County government. They were in the process of setting aside 9 lots throughout St. Louis County and Barnes asked Chief Wolf if Hazelwood would like to participate. Chief Wolf gave him an affirmative response and arranged a meeting for Barnes to meet Barks about Battery Park. Things went well and Barnes had Barks meet with CAA’s gardener to discuss different landscaping options.
A special thanks goes to Home Nursery for donating many of the plants in the Battery Park Memorial Community Garden. Other contributors include O’Hara Landscape & Horticultural Services and Next Day Signs.
“We want garden parks in every community. But this is a special one because it’s about The Backstoppers — honoring our fallen heroes…I want to thank Mr. Barks and his family for what they’re doing to support this opportunity. I say it over and over again. The key to building a vibrant St. Louis County is people giving something back to their community, and this is a perfect example,” said St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley.
Arrangements have been made for the Hazelwood Police Department’s Explorers group to help maintain Battery Park on a regular basis. According to Chief Wolf, Hazelwood Police Department, “This is a great way of connecting these youth and young minds to the idea of helping out with community service projects such as the one dedicated by the Barks family. It also allows them to consider other career opportunities that are out there such as the green industry, law enforcement, medical services and firefighting. We want them to be creative and get involved in our community.”