You've probably noticed something different about this year's Picture Your Parks newsletter - we've gone digital. It's no secret that this past year has been tough on businesses and organizations alike. The City of Eugene was not immune to these economic forces so this is one way in which we are tightening our belts. In this new digital format we are able to provide more in depth information and stories, which we hope you enjoy!
As most people spent more time at home than ever before, we also relied on our outdoor spaces for much-needed respite. Despite the ongoing challenges presented by COVID-19, wildfire smoke and increased urban camping, we remained steadfast in our mission to improve the parks, trails and green spaces across Eugene.
Parks continued to play a pivotal role in addressing community-wide needs, from sheltering the unhoused to supporting wildfire evacuation and pandemic recovery relief efforts. Currently, we are managing two COVID-19 related temporary campsites as well as hosting five rest stops and one micro-site.
Bond and levy funds were vital to our ability to respond to the dramatic increase in park usage during the past 15 months. With these new resources already in place, we continued to build new parks, refurbish older parks and rec facilities, enhance park maintenance services, trails and natural areas and improve public safety throughout the pandemic.
Park employees are the beating heart of our park systems and we are truly thankful for their dedication to the parks we all love. It was an especially challenging time for staff as we faced varying levels of shutdowns, new cleaning protocols, wildfire smoke and increased maintenance needs. From the operations and maintenance crews to the Park Ambassadors, they have done extraordinary work in trying times to keep our parks open and safe.
We’d also like to say thank you to the entire community for your ongoing support of our parks. Last summer’s public survey illustrates just how vital Eugene parks are to this community, with a whopping ninety percent (90%) of respondents stating parks are important to their quality of life. We take this seriously and appreciate your continued trust in us to care for these beloved public spaces.
After more than a year of wearing masks the Oregon Health Authority has said it’s safe to remove your mask while outside so we look forward to seeing your smiling faces out in Eugene’s amazing parks and open spaces!
Bond and Levy Update
In 2018, voters voiced their strong support for the future of Eugene’s Parks and Recreation centers. Since the approval of a $39.5 million bond and $3.15 million levy, Eugene’s Parks and Recreation System Plan has been coming to life. Read the full Fiscal Year 2020 Bond and Levy Report.
Recently Completed Projects
Campbell Community Center - The newly renovated center was expanded by 50 percent, adding space for a variety of fitness activities, more socializing with improved circulation and connectivity.
Echo Hollow Pool & Fitness Center – The upgraded community center will meet increased demand for recreation and competitive swimmers as well as more locker room space, a large lawn and new activity pool. Echo Hollow will reopen to the public June 21.
West Bank Path Lighting - This project brought new lighting to a section of the Ruth Bascom Riverfront Path System between Maurie Jacobs Park and Formac Avenue.
Artificial Turf Field Replacement - Four artificial turf fields were replaced in partnership with Bethel and 4J school districts; Willamette High School, Meadow View School, Spencer Butte Middle School and Arts and Technology Academy.
Downtown Riverfront Park – With broad river views, new bicycle and pedestrian paths, seating and overlooks, this three-acre park will be the heart of the riverfront redevelopment. Join us in August for grand opening celebrations.
Construction Beginning This Summer
Sheldon Pool & Fitness Center – Site excavation has started at another of the City’s pools. This popular community center will reopen in 2022 with upgraded bathrooms and locker rooms, a new indoor pool and hot tub and more gathering spaces.
Striker Field - This eight-acre park will include a large playground, basketball court, pickleball, pétanque, restrooms, picnic shelter, walking paths and space for community gatherings. Scheduled to be complete in 2021.
Berkeley Park Renovation – This park renovation will feature an expanded playground with all new equipment, a sand play area, a picnic plaza with new furniture as well as an expanded lawn and continuous, accessible looped path. Scheduled to be completed in 2021.
Alton Baker, South Bank Path and Monroe Park Lighting – Alton Baker and Monroe Park are both lighting replacement projects, whereas the South Bank Path will bring new lighting to this important bike corridor between the University of Oregon and downtown Eugene.
Planning and public engagement beginning this year
MLK Jr. Park Renovation – This small neighborhood park is due for an upgrade. A community engagement process will being in 2021 with construction expected in 2023.
Mattie Reynolds Park – This new 5.25-acre park is in southwest Eugene. A community engagement process will begin in 2021 with construction expected in 2024.
Golden Gardens Sports Complex – The master planning process for a sports complex will start in 2021. It will include a community engagement process for this 223-acre park in northwest Eugene.
Pictured: Santa Clara Community Park public workshop, February 2020
Construction beginning next summer (2022)
Amazon Creek Habitat Restoration – Over two construction seasons, the concrete channel between 20th and 24th avenues will be removed to restore a natural streambed with sloped banks, native plantings and low flow channels.
Santa Clara Community Park, Phase 1 – With a master plan finalized, the first phase of development for this 35-acre park will begin in 2022. Development will include a large playground, dog park, restroom, walking trails, lawn and places for community gatherings.
Suzanne Arlie Ridgeline Trail and Access – With a master plan completed, the largest park in Eugene (515 acres) will soon include a 2-mile extension of the main Ridgeline shared-use trail and a new trailhead accessible from Lane Community College.
Eugene Parks Foundation
The Eugene Parks Foundation (EPF) brings financial support and public advocacy to Eugene’s parks, natural areas and recreation services to enhance the quality of our park system and ensure accessibility. EPF believes physical challenges and economic struggles should never be a barrier to the enjoyment of our parks and recreation services.
Becoming a Tourist in Your Own City
When the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the mass shutdown of businesses, services and travel, our world grew infinitely smaller. Like many, Whitney Donielson pivoted to work from home full-time and severely limited her outings.
While scrolling through Instagram in May 2020, she saw a post from a friend tagged at Golden Gardens Park. Born and raised in Eugene, Whitney was surprised she had never heard of this park. It piqued her interest so much she and her husband set out to find it.
“Golden Gardens was just really beautiful and unexpected. I went there in the spring so there were a lot of turtles,” Whitney says.
Inspired by the thrill of exploring a new place after several months of lockdown, Whitney decided that same day she was going to visit each of Eugene’s 100+ parks and natural areas.
Centro Latino Draws Inspiration from Celebrated Artists for Whale Painting
In May, Centro Latino Americano's Mentores para Jovenes (Youth Mentorship Program) let their artistic energy flow as they painted the Whale and Stingray sculptures.
The youth looked at Portrait of Martín Luis Guzmán by Diego Rivera, an interpretation of Frida Kahlo’s Tree of Hope by Arturo Martinez, and a hand-woven, Incan embroidery for inspiration. These art pieces inspired the use of geometric shapes and a bright color palette that resulted in a fun design for the well-loved play area.
Volunteering Through COVID
Volunteers have always been a huge part of what makes our parks shine.
While volunteer events were on hold for part of 2020, our parks saw more use than ever before, putting a huge strain on our daily operations staff. Our volunteers were not deterred and staff found creative ways to keep them engaged in projects across the park system.
We want to give a big thank you to everyone who put on a pair of gloves, muck boots and a mask to help take care of our parks.
Mid-Elevation Trail at Skinner Butte
The Mid-Elevation Trail on Skinner Butte is a great addition to our urban trail system. The new trail can be seen on the Skinner Butte Park map along the dotted line.
This easy walk around the Butte starts from the upper parking lot and connects to the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House and Lincoln Street. Two trail entrances, both near the information kiosk, will take you to the new trail.
Great views and a different perspective of the Butte await, as you travel under the Big “O” and Big “E," past large specimen oaks, maples, cedars, fir and even a redwood.
For the past 35 years, Eugene Parks and Open Space and other Rivers to Ridges partners have been using prescribed fire as a tool to manage wet prairies. This tool was developed and has been used for millennia by local indigenous people to manage the landscape for food and other subsistence resources. Many of the plants found in local wet prairie, upland prairie and oak habitats are fire-adapted and thrive only with regular exposure to fire.
In addition to the benefits to local plants and animals, prescribed fire or ecological burning can be an important tool to reduce the amount of wildfire fuel. Reducing the abundance of thick vegetation can reduce the flame length and heat of a wildfire making it easier to fight and manage before burning out of control.
Staff recently completed this video going into more detail on the planning and safety of ecological burning, the reasons why we do it and the role of local fire departments in the process. Learn more about ecological burning.
After the events of last summer, wildfire is on the minds of western Oregonians now more than ever. Parks and Open Space takes the threat of wildfire seriously. Since 2007, we have been engaging in fuels reduction projects on City parkland. Early efforts funded in part through grants from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and the Bonneville Power Administration have been bolstered in recent years thanks to significant funding from the Bureau of Land Management’s Community Wildfire Assistance Program and a recent Oregon Department of Forestry grant.
Fuels reduction work involves the removal of dense, invasive, mostly non-native vegetation to create a more open understory and the removal of ladder fuels which can transport fire up into the forest canopy. To date, we’ve conducted this work across 750 acres in 12 parks spanning from downtown to the Ridgeline Park System.
These projects provide multiple benefits for parks and the City. Removing hazardous fuels makes our parks safer for park visitors, neighbors, and important water, power and communications infrastructure. The removal of dense vegetation enhances forest health and can restore rare oak and prairie habitat types, a priority of the Oregon Conservation Strategy and other conservation initiatives. These projects also open up areas for future public recreational access and for emergency personnel should a fire start in these areas.
Thanks to Eugene voters for supporting the 2018 bond and levy! Some of that funding has been used to help us maintain this important work. Learn more about how to prepare for a possible future wildfire.
Projects Coming Soon
Lincoln School Park renovation – Careful root probing on the site last year uncovered numerous large roots from mature maples prompting the planning team to rework the design to preserve the trees. After this delay, construction is scheduled for this summer with completion planned in the fall.
Amazon Prairie Mitigation Bank – This summer Eugene breaks ground on its newest wetland mitigation bank, Amazon Prairie, west of the Eugene Airport. This first phase involves earthwork, seeding, and planting on over 140 acres of former ryegrass field. Over the next several years and in two phases, Eugene intends to restore a 320-acre matrix of wetland, upland prairie, and riparian habitat.
Pre’s Rock Safety improvements - Since the death of Olympic Runner Steve Prefontaine in 1975 in a car accident on Skyline Drive, the large rock adjacent to the site has served as a living memorial to his greatness. The City-owned memorial site continues to be heavily visited by athletes from around the world who regard Prefontaine as an icon of running history and athletic achievement. With major international track and field events soon to arrive in Eugene’s newly constructed Hayward Field, the City has designed a set of safety improvements for the area to avoid large crowds standing in the driving lanes of Skyline Drive. An expanded sidewalk and clear designation of Pre’s Rock as a memorial site will provide safer places for visitors to stand, sit and place personal items that are a regular feature of the memorial site.