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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why Don't We Hang at the Arch More? 5 Amazing Ideas to Get St. Louis to the Gateway

Posted By on Thu, Dec 19, 2013 at 10:53 AM

We should go here more. - DOUGTONE ON FLICKR
  • Dougtone on Flickr
  • We should go here more.

A particularly tech-savvy park ranger is behind a growing online conversation over attracting more people to the riverfront for events at the Gateway Arch.

"National Park Service wants you to come hang out at the park," posts law enforcement ranger Coty Stief on Reddit. "What kind of programs would you like to see us host to accomplish that?"

The simple question drew more than a dozen quality, enthusiastic suggestions from Reddit users -- who are more famous for using the anonymous information-sharing forum for snide, snarky remarks -- including concerts, sporting events, movie nights, food competitions and more.

There's just one problem, says Ann Honious, spokesperson for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial: Any events held at the Arch must connect to its federal mission of celebrating St. Louis' role in westward expansion.

"We have a great urban park, but because of our purpose and mission, we are restricted in some ways in how we use it," Honious tells the Daily RFT. "It is one of our primary concerns of the park, just getting people to understand what opportunities are here for visitors beyond just going to the top of the Arch."

The parks service already organizes several events on the Arch grounds each year.

Yoga under the Arch - PAUL SABLEMAN, FLICKR
  • Paul Sableman, Flickr
  • Yoga under the Arch

Last year's Gateway to the Stars astronomy program drew 700 stargazers. Yoga under the Arch -- which fits the park's mission of furthering health in families -- drew 1,730 people last summer. For three years, the park has held a Night at the Museum evening taking families on a living tour of St. Louis' history. Last year's event drew more than 600 people.

But those attendance numbers don't match the enthusiasm and excitement St. Louisans have for the iconic monument that's come to represent the pride they have in their city.

And that's where social media comes in.

The National Parks Service can't advertise or market it's events because it's a federal entity, so it relies on press releases, a mediocre Facebook page, online calendars and word of mouth to attract visitors. In a world where email marketing and hashtags rule all, that makes the park's marketing approach distinctly vintage.

"It's become increasingly clear that our main issue is notifying the public about events that are happening in and around the park," says ranger Stief, who serves on the Arch's social media team, on Reddit. "I'm just an employee that wants to get people involved with the park and wants to find out how to do that."

We couldn't agree more. To that end, here are five ideas for crazy-fun events with a tie back to the mission of honoring St. Louis' past and keeping families healthy.

Continue reading for five event ideas suggested by Reddit.

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