At the end of the program for the May 29, 1937 dedication of Shaw Park, an inscription reads: The Charles A. Shaw Park belongs to the people of Clayton. It is dedicated to their use in the hope that it will add to their health, their pleasure and their happiness.
Seventy-four years later, the green space continues to live up to that commitment as it combines historical features with state-of-the-art facilities to provide an oasis in the middle of the city. "I think the park has something for everyone," says Patty DeForrest, director of parks and recreation for Clayton. "For a town that's only 2.5 square miles, it's an amazing regional park."
Established in 1935 by then-Mayor Shaw as the country climbed out of the Great Depression, the almost 50-acre park was formed from land purchased through a Works Progress Administration grant. While some elements have changed in the years since and others added along the way, the footprints of the tennis courts and swimming pool remain true to the original design. "The pool has been greatly expanded since it was initially built, with a last renovation in 2002, but the original concrete bleachers remain and the main lap pool is the same size," DeForrest notes.
Today, trips to the Aquatic Center cost more than the 1937 rate of 35 cents, but the pool sees 100,000 visitors each year. Along with the 10 tennis courts, shelters, soccer and baseball fields, playgrounds and picnic areas are spread throughout the park's grounds. In addition, this year the park will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the outdoor ice rink, one of the few remaining in the area.
Hoping to provide a place for children of all abilities to have fun, the park opened its Tree Top playground in October 2010. The state-of-the-art playground includes accessible slides, swings and a sprayground water feature. The centerpiece, however, is the ‘treehouse,' which mimics the types of wood found in the park and creates a space that most kids could only dream of creating in their own backyard. "We wanted to make sure that everyone could get to every component-it was our goal to let every kid play," DeForrest says.
Coupled with the playground is the new Sensory Garden, which opened this spring. With a babbling waterfall, fragrant flowers, textured plants and a foliage-covered walkway with windchimes, the elements "stimulate all of the senses, so anyone can benefit from the garden," DeForrest explains.
In preparation for Clayton's centennial celebration in 2013, the park is planning additional enhancements, including continued accessibility improvements, renovations to shelters and a new walking trail that will extend its length to 1.8 miles. From picnickers to dog walkers to swimmers, on any given day Shaw Park is filled with people taking advantage of the various amenities, just like their 1930s counterparts. "We have a little bit of everything," DeForrest says. "Some nights, I'll just go out there to see everyone enjoying the park."