ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – There are new concerns about a long-time nature sanctuary that’s now surrounded by suburban development in St. Charles.
Bangert Island is a 160-acre haven for hikers and bike riders just south of Interstate 70 along the Missouri River.
The concerns have arisen over a change in who controls the island. The City of St. Charles owns the land but has been leasing it to St. Charles County for upkeep as part of the county parks system. St. Charles County has just agreed to terminate the lease, giving the city full control.
“You need to start your (report) by telling everybody, ‘Relax,’ because what’s there now is going to remain there,” St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said.
Island visitors, however, noticed immediate changes on Tuesday.
“The access bridge is gone,” said Kevin Hunsel, who was riding his bike on the island’s trails a night earlier. “The overlook bench by the river is gone and the sign markers are all gone. As soon as we heard they were going to start building things, we all started getting a little nervous.”
White ribbons now hang from trees and ground markers, outlining the property boundaries.
The $350 million Riverpointe business, retail, and residential development is going in next to the island. Public access is already being choked with Riverpointe’s first tenant, the Chicken and Pickle pickleball-restaurant chain, set to open later this year.
Supporters maintain the Riverpointe development, which will stretch from I-70 to the Family Arena (Hwy 364) will bring an estimated 4,000 jobs, a million annual visitors, and $1.5 billion of annual revenue, to St. Charles.
The lease change allows the City of St. Charles to move forward with a key part of the Riverpointe plan: building a lake and clearing trees for wetlands that will separate Riverpointe from Bangert Island. Those features involve land added to the island through accretion: a buildup of silt and tree growth on what used to be wetlands on the island’s west side, according to St. Charles Mayor Dan Borgmeyer.
The City of St. Charles is paying the county $236,000, money the county had spent through the years on things like signage, parking, and flood cleanup, at the property.
“The biggest motivation for us was all the construction that’s going to be going on down there the next three or four years,” Ehlmann said. “The construction companies will probably respond better to the city’s request to keep it open than they would to us, because we don’t have a contractual relationship with (those companies).”
The nearly 50-year-old deed from when the Bangert family originally donated the island to the state of Missouri states it “forever remain in the public domain,” and be “maintained in its natural state.”
The original 160 acres are to remain intact, Borgmeyer says. Ehlmann agrees.
“The deed restrictions will not allow them to do any major changes to Bangert Island,” he said. “It will continue to be a park. It will continue to be a natural park.”
The St. Charles County board has already approved the lease change. The St. Charles City Council was expected to follow suit at its meeting Tuesday night.