Turtle Park is a sculpture theme playground situated at the southern edge of Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri. This turtle-themed playground is located at the intersection of Oakland Avenue and Tamm Avenue. Today, the park can be seen from Interstate 64 and the St. Louis Zoo to the north.
Turtle Park, also known as Turtle Playground, contains seven concrete turtles and one snake. Created by Bob Cassilly, founder of the City Museum and Cementland, envisioned the turtle sculptures ranging from seven to forty feet in length.
History of Turtle Park
Turtle Playground opened in August 1996, designed by Richard Claybour and funded by St. Louis philanthropist Sonya “Sunny” Glassberg as a gift to the children of St. Louis. The turtles are named after her children and grandchildren. Sunny Glassberg developed the idea and donated the funds for Turtle Park. She hired Bob Cassilly to design the park, and the St. Louis Parks Department and Forest Park Forever helped locate the land for the park, a strip of Forest Park that had been cut off by Interstate 64. Glassberg wanted the park to be a fun place for children: “I wanted to give children a place where they could be happy, where they could feel inspired. Because I feel that that sort of thing is contagious.”
During construction of the park, the concurrent reconstruction of Interstate 64 in 2009 necessitated the removal of the snake’s head. Cassilly’s team removed the head, and the new bridge was designed to be placed back on the sculpture to look like the snake was eating the overpass. The park features seven turtle species that are native to Missouri, namely, a 40-foot long snapping turtle, a soft-shelled turtle, a red-eared slider, a Mississippi map, three box turtles, and a stinkpot turtle, all created in concrete. In addition to the turtles, there is a clutch of seven oversized turtle eggs, three of which include hatching baby turtles and a long sinuous snake. Over 120,000 pounds of concrete were used to create the snapping turtle alone. The design of each figure allows children to climb onto the turtle’s shells and into their open mouths.
Turtle Playground is a natural draw for children of all ages who love climbing on the backs of the giant reptiles. In September of 2015, Turtle Park needed upgrades to the playground through Forest Park Forever and its partnership with the City of St. Louis which included:
• Installation of a drinking fountain with a water bottle filler and dog bowl at the bottom
• New turf installation
• New irrigation installation and water line
• Access path resurfacing of the playground
Turtles have roamed the Earth since the time of the dinosaurs and have always fascinated children and adults. The natural wonder of turtles has helped make Turtle Park one of the major attractions in St. Louis, Missouri. Turtle Park was voted the “Best Picnic Spot” in St. Louis in 2011 by the Riverfront Times. The area is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.