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Volunteers Contribute to Park Sustainability

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Americorps Planting

This article was originally published in our fall 2022 newsletter, View 630'.


Our volunteers continue to make a big impact at Gateway Arch National Park. 

With the introduction of our Volunteer Program in 2021, co-managed with our partners at the National Park Service (NPS) and building upon the existing NPS program, volunteers from across St. Louis and beyond have been contributing to new sustainability efforts at the park. 

By having so many volunteers contribute to park conservation through planting, caretaking and pollution-reduction projects, NPS has greater capacity to effectively respond to biodiversity challenges such as invasive species and promote a healthier environment in Downtown St. Louis. 

“Volunteers are essential to fulfill our mission of ensuring the Gateway Arch, its grounds and neighboring public spaces are vital, welcoming and well-supported for the community for generations to come,” said Meagan Patterson, volunteer manager at Gateway Arch Park Foundation. “We would not be able to sustain this beautiful urban green space without their efforts and dedication.” 

We’re excited to highlight some of these recent efforts here. 

Corporate Volunteers 

One of the hallmarks of our Volunteer Program is the ability to engage corporate volunteer groups and facilitate corporate stewardship of our shared public lands. 

In August, 10 volunteers from Abstrakt Marketing Group took on a project to cut seed heads off Johnson grass and simultaneously cut the grass back in the North Gateway meadow in order to mitigate the number of seeds being distributed naturally, reduce the spread of the invasive species and eradicate it from the area. 

“This is going to allow our partners at NPS the ability to overseed the area and have the appropriate grasses thrive,” said Patterson. 

And in October, 22 participants from Edward Jones cleared the fencing along the railroad trestle near the Lenore K. Sullivan Boulevard, which helped eradicate thistle and invasive species from the area.

“I think it’s important to give back to the community and do some beautifying work around one of our great national monuments,” said Mike McMahon, one of the volunteers. “They [the grounds crew] do a great job keeping it nice for all the people who come to see the Arch.” 

Volunteer Groups 

We’ve also been thrilled to welcome several special volunteer groups to advance sustainability at the park. 

In April, we hosted nine Cub Scouts who helped spread mulch around shrubs and trees in the park next to the “Old Cathedral.” 

We also had 10 volunteers from AmeriCorps join us in June to plant 224 Blue Zinger sedge plants near the north leg of the Arch. 

“In this area, the NPS team had started with a different type of sedge that was not holding up in that environment,” Patterson said. “They did a test plot and noticed that the Blue Zinger held up perfectly. AmeriCorps helped reestablish that area with the appropriate sedge that is going to fill the area’s needs aesthetically and functionally.” 

“I’ve met people from all walks of life who contribute for a variety of reasons, but they ultimately leave as park stewards even more committed to this mission."

Meagan Patterson
Volunteer Manager

Days of Service 

Finally, our “days of service” events invite individual volunteers as well as groups to team up for large-scale cleanup projects. 

As part of Earth Day weekend, we hosted a “day of service” cleanup of the St. Louis Riverfront on April 23, welcoming 50 volunteers from across the region. Together, they collected 35 full bags of trash, 40 pounds of plastic, 10 pounds of metal scraps, 30 pounds of wet fabric and 14 pounds of glass, keeping it out of the Mississippi River. 

And on Sept. 24, for National Public Lands Day, we welcomed 54 volunteers for a Riverfront and park cleanup, who collected 37 bags of trash (803 pounds of trash and recyclables), including 50 pounds of plastic and 13 pounds of metal and aluminum. 

The Mississippi River is one of the largest sources of oceanic plastic debris, so by keeping trash out of the river, our volunteers subsequently helped keep it out of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean – and helped keep St. Louis’ “front door” looking amazing. 

The Volunteer Program at Gateway Arch National Park continues to grow, with 2,920 hours served in 2022 (as of Oct. 1). Looking to the future, volunteer leaders at the Foundation and NPS hope to expand with new volunteer opportunities to reach a much larger audience. 

“Volunteers have made a huge impact on sustainability, visitor experience and event satisfaction based on the feedback we’ve received over the past two years,” said Patterson. 

“One of the most rewarding aspects is seeing the excitement of so many volunteers as they realize the significance of their work and how their ‘day of service’ truly helps keep the park beautiful for so many people who enjoy it,” she continued. “I’ve met people from all walks of life who contribute for a variety of reasons — care for the environment, love of St. Louis, wanting to make new friends or have a fun outing with coworkers — but they ultimately leave as park stewards even more committed to this mission.”

To learn more about becoming a volunteer, contact volunteer manager Meagan Patterson at