- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Records show a taxpayer-funded trails district has doubled its commitment to pay yearly operations costs at the new Gateway Arch grounds.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1KABjPr) reports that Great Rivers Greenway executive director Susan Trautman gained board approval to pay about $1 million a year toward landscaping maintenance and operations. Records obtained by the newspaper show Trautman doubled that commitment without asking the board, which has questioned the National Park Service’s estimate that it’ll cost $2.6 million annually to maintain the park.

“Some of them don’t want it,” Trautman said regarding such records. “Typically they don’t.”

Great Rivers and CityArchRiver, the nonprofit formed to raise money for the $380 million renovation project, had agreed to split the bill. But Great Rivers’ new agreement predicts neither group has enough money to cover those costs.

Great Rivers Greenway leaders who contest the estimate have refused to pay this year’s park costs until they receive more information and have asked for an analysis of new revenue possibilities.

“We don’t have an ax to grind. We’re trying to make this work,” said Tom Bradley, superintendent of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, on which the Arch sits. “It’s just, as you know, extremely complicated.”

Board members have stressed the importance of accountability, saying they want the National Park Service, which owns the Arch, to prove that it actually needs to extra money.

The board wants the National Park Service and Great Rivers Greenway to agree on totals before it pays any operations costs, Great Rivers Greenway board President Bernard DuBray said in a letter to Bradley. The board wants to determine which partner will cover which expenses, as well as a long-term financial solution for operations.

“We are concerned that, because there is no current plan for how improvements are going to be funded and maintained, that the park will be unable to sustain the maintenance of newly constructed improvements,” DuBray said in his letter.

Great Rivers and the Park Service are scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss solutions.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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