May 2, 2022, Sunset Hills, Missouri – A park bench dedication ceremony took place at Nancy Eschbach Forest River Trail Park on Saturday, April 9, 2022, honoring Walter Eschbach’s lifelong service as an environmentalist and active supporter of preserving open space in the St. Louis area. Mr. Eschbach was joined by a group of neighborhood residents, friends, and family to celebrate. A Red-bellied Woodpecker also joined in, as it was heard loud and clear in the forest, providing a drum roll seconds before Walter cut the ceremonial yellow ribbon encircling the bench. Applause and laughter broke out among the celebrators as they acknowledged the delightful participation of the winged park resident.
Walter’s educational background – two master’s degrees in city planning from St. Louis University, alongside his 35-year career working for the St. Louis city department of Housing and Urban Development, would lead you to believe Walter supported urban development.
Quite the opposite was true. Walter always advocated for land preservation over development. It was his experience in city planning where he recognized the dire need for man to preserve the untouched land that was so quickly disappearing around him.
Walter’s youngest daughter Elizabeth Carter organized the celebration and spoke at the ceremony telling her father, “I’m proud of how you put your passion into action—starting way back in 1965 when you were a founding member of the St Louis Open Space Council – and an active member for over 37 years. You helped preserve thousands of acres of parks and open spaces throughout St. Louis during those years. In 1990 you were also a key player in preserving 998 acres of land along the Hwy 44 corridor – now the Forest 44 Conservation area. A sanctuary for wildlife and visitors today.”
“This was a perfect day. I couldn’t have asked for more!” said Walter Eschbach on the day of the event. The family purchased the bench. Gerald Brown, Director of Sunset Hills Parks & Recreation, and current OSC Board Member, generously expedited the installation, securing it in the park at a location selected by the family. Walter Eschbach wrote the inscription on the plaque attached to the bench; “Enjoy Natures Peace, Preserve Nature’s Peace.” Elizabeth also said her “father turned 94, and she wanted him to know, while he was still alive, that there will always be a bench along this trail with his message of preserving nature’s beauty. A message that will touch many park goers and live far beyond his years.”
The Nancy Eschbach Forest River Trail Park was conserved by the Open Space Council in partnership with Mr. Walter Eschbach, the City of Sunset Hills, and the Robert J. Trulaske Family Foundation. The park is a quaint forested getaway with a ¼ mile trail loop, perfect for a morning or afternoon walk. Thank you, Walter, for your many years of service to the Open Space Council, the environment, and the St. Louis community.