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From plan to reality Work has started on an ambitious plan for Eugene's riverfront

A big stretch of Eugene’s riverfront property is getting a facelift.

From Campbell Community Center to the EWEB Steam Plant, there will be new ways for Eugeneans to connect with the Willamette River. Shovels are finally moving dirt and crews are tearing down walls.

“Yes, we are actually digging in the ground now,” City of Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis said in July while standing in the middle of what will become the Downtown Riverfront Park. “There’s promise here.”

Since the approval of a $39.5 million bond and $3.15 million levy in May 2018, Eugene’s Parks and Recreation System Plan has been coming to life. Levy funds helped increase maintenance and public safety in our parks, and teams across the City began working to vision upgraded community centers, pools and new parks.

In the coming months our community will see the most concrete evidence yet of progress being made on the Willamette from Campbell to the Steam Plant.

The staff at Campbell Community Center are ready to dig in.

A groundbreaking at Campbell

At Campbell Community Center, Celeste Campbell’s legacy will once again be invested in. The second oldest senior center on the west coast has seen many changes since it was first gifted to the City in the 1960s, but over the next year Campbell will get its biggest addition and renovation to make it a home for Eugene’s seniors for decades to come. Groundbreaking on the north end of the property is scheduled to begin in late August. In September, early site development and excavation will start and construction on the 5,745 square-foot expansion is scheduled to begin in January 2020. We’re hopeful the unveiling of the new-look Campbell will happen in the fall of 2020.

Adding fitness space at Campbell has always been a top priority for Eugene Rec, and the addition will include a fitness center, exercise rooms, a meeting/class room and storage. Also included in the project are enhancements to the current building, including an improved entrance, a new courtyard, a reconstructed lobby and a larger arts room.

A renewed downtown riverfront

Bookending the Willamette River project zone is the Steam Plant and Downtown Riverfront Park site. The transformation of the former EWEB industrial area into a vibrant new park and neighborhood began in the spring with building demolition and continues through the end of this construction season with significant grading, removal of non-native invasive plants and replanting of more than 24,000 native plants, bulbs and shrubs along the river bank.

“We’re in this awesome spot in the river,” Public Works Principle Landscape Architect Emily Proudfoot said. “We’ll be creating sightlines while enhancing the bank.”

This season’s work is an important step for the second phase when the new park features will be installed. The 3-acre park will open in 2021. With thousands weighing in last year, a design concept emerged for the Downtown Riverfront Park that’s fundamentally urban in character and balanced by riverbank and habitat enhancements. Broad river views, new bicycle and pedestrian paths, seating and overlooks will highlight the park design and integrated art pieces will help tell the stories about the ecology, industry and community of Eugene.

A rendering of what Eugene's Downtown Riverfront could look like.
The Downtown Riverfront Park will have sweeping views of the Willamette River.

The work along the Ruth Bascom River Path does come with some closures. Portions of the South Bank Path closed in July and won’t reopen for two years as large construction equipment will be moving through the area. Periodic closures span from the Peter DeFazio Bridge to the Dave and Lynn Frohnmayer Bridge. We know just how much the River Path means to our town, so we appreciate everyone’s patience as we work to upgrade it for even more enjoyment for years to come.

You can find all the latest on the project at eugene-or.gov/3917/Downtown-Riverfront-Park.

Other work underway

While the work along the Willamette begins to reshape the riverfront, other projects will do the same thing citywide. Echo Hollow Pool & Fitness Center will begin construction this winter, and as that project closes, we will begin to re-envision Sheldon Pool & Fitness Center and a new sports complex.

Construction workers pour concrete at the new playground at Tugman Park.

Parks and Open Space has held community gatherings to solicit input on the new Striker Field Park in north Eugene and Berkeley Park renovations. The Tugman Park playground will reopen in August with brand new playground equipment and sand play area. There will be a grand reopening celebration on Sept. 7. The well-loved Amazon Trail in Amazon Park is undergoing a full reconstruction in 2020 and plans to renovate Alton Baker, University, MLK Jr. and Trainsong parks are moving forward as well.

The levy has already made its mark on our community with a litany of system upgrades over the last year. We increased park safety by adding two year-round Eugene Police Officers dedicated to the parks, added two more Park Ambassadors, reopened closed restrooms in parks, increased mowing frequency and added seasonal weekend and after-hours maintenance in high-use parks. We also increased seasonal trash service at busy trailheads, have started doing more trail maintenance and continue to do vegetation management to reduce fuel loads, manage weeds and add native plants.

The 2018 Parks and Recreation Bond and Levy list of projects.

Keeping you in the loop

To promote accountability and citizen involvement in Parks and Recreation bond and levy projects, a citizen advisory board has been created to review expenditures and advise on the implementation of projects. A report will be prepared and submitted to the city manager, the mayor and city council that summarizes implementation and financial reporting at the end of each fiscal year.

Oversight for the bond and levy was promised, and we are diligently putting reporting measures into place to ensure everyone knows what the money is being spent on. Besides the citizen advisory board for the bond and levy an outside auditor will prepare annual written reports and levy fund budget and accounting will be available to the public.

Pictured left: Levy funding increased Park Ambassador staffing system wide.

A game-changer for us

On a cloudy July day Mayor Vinis stood in front of a TV camera and talked about her excitement about the renovations on the river and how it will be a wonderful way to welcome visitors when they come to town in 2021 for the world track and field championships.

“It’s so exciting to be at this point,” Vinis said. She was wearing a neon safety vest and hard hat, having just crawled out of a backhoe where she had done some ceremonial digging. “This is really a game-changer for us. We have a long-standing desire to bring the city to the river and to do that in a way where the whole public gets to enjoy the river.

“It’s very, very exciting to be right on the edge of this enormous undertaking.”

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