Is More Development Needed in Southeast Eugene?

By Seiga Ohtani

Glenn Wells, a cashier of Jiffy Market, really want to enjoy slow life in Southeast Eugene. One of the reasons he works for Jiffy Market here is that he would like to spend time in quiet and leisurely area.

Southeast Eugene is one of the most natural places in Eugene, Ore. in terms that people spend their time in a tranquil and carefree place. Its `beautiful nature and several parks make it possible. Runners enjoy running in sunny days along the Adidas Amazon Trail, families spend weekend in Amazon City Park or Tugman City Park under the sunshine, and golfers can play at Laurelwood Municipal Golf Course. Also, Spencer Butte City Park is close to Southeast, and people can command a panoramic view of the City of Eugene. In this neighborhood, people most enjoy the city’s beauty.

But Southeast Eugene confronts environmental and development issues. The soil in the area is easily damaged by the development of the area such as construction of a road or new houses, and an installment of new transportation system. As well as the soil concerns, people living here do not wish any more development especially for the housing area which is located on higher ground than commercial area.

In the past, a housing project was planned in Southeast Eugene. The East Fork of the Willamette river has natural resources, and it is located between Nectar Way and Dillard Road, possessed by Joe Green, a Portland developer. Green proposed to build 113 houses here, and he called the proposal Green Valley Glen. The committee members of Southeast Eugene acknowledged the benefit by proceeding the project, in “Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on Amazon Headwaters Acquisition,” saying “The value of individual building lots in the area suggests that … the gross sales receipts in dollars could add up to many millions.” But none of members agreed with the proposal. In “Eugene’s Amazon Headwaters Under Siege,” Lisa Warnes says, “Southeast Eugene (SEN), Save Amazon Headwaters (SAH) and Friends of Eugene (FoE) have joined together in the effort to stop the proposed developments in these fragile and irreplaceable ecosystems.” In the end, the City of Eugene purchased the land, and the problem was over.

But environmental problems loom over Southeast Eugene even now. Especially, Amazon headwaters are still in danger despite that their important role in this area. Betty Taylor, a vice president of Eugene City Council and representative of Southeast Eugene, talked about the area’ urgent problems and concerns after Eugene City Council Meeting on February 8, 2010. Southeast Eugene has some parks and is blessed with nature such as wood and water. These resources play important role for the City of Eugene. According to Southeast Eugene’s live wiki page, “It [Southeast Eugene] also includes substantial natural resources, including most of the remaining upland wildlife habitat in the City of Eugene.” But those natural areas face something dangerous, according to Taylor. Taylor said that it is important to save Amazon Headwaters by Amazon creek. She also said that the area is blessed with a lot of nature, so these environments should be protected. Several reasons would be applied to preserve these natural environments.

First, the development of this area has possibility to destroy and let native species living in this distinct area. The City of Eugene still holds rare native species that cannot be seen in the other part of lands. As the committee members’ discussion of the City, in “City of Eugene Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on Amazon Headwaters Acquisition Final Report,” “Amphibian biologist Tom Titus finds that OWEB [Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board] priority species the Northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora aurora, Federal Species of Concern, State Listed Sensitive) is present on the East Fork site, which includes important amphibian habitat.”

Additionally, the development of the area will be beyond just the distinction of rare species in the area. It will also make the quality of water worse. Lisa Warnes and Kathleen Leonard say, in “Eugene’s Amazon Headwaters Under Siege,”  “Housing developments in the headwaters forests will not only destroy native species and wildlife habit, but will further jeopardize the water quality of Amazon Creek which is already at maximum levels for arsenic, e-coli, lead and turbidity.” Also, the problem is discussed in “Why is Saving the Amazon Headwaters Keystone Important?” and unknown author say, “As part of the Amazon Creek Headwaters, this area provides stormwater management and flood control benefits by absorbing and storing rainwater. Water quality is protected by preventing erosion, filtering sediments, and naturally treating pollutants.” As they discuss in their articles, it is also important to save the creek and headwaters in order to keep water quality well enough.

Philip Richardson, a landscape architect of the City of Eugene, would like to go ahead some development in Southeast Eugene, based on resident’s wishes. Richardson said that the Division of Public Works of the City of Eugene is now thinking how to use the area where the city purchased in 2006, and he says that the city cannot expect to purchase any more area because of a shortage of budget for the area. The city is now conducting an analysis and managing plans to figure out what people now want for the area. But he stresses that it will not be a big development, but just a construction of some parks and trails people can play and hike. According to him, trail is the most likely plan. “Everyone wants natural area,” said Richardson. He agrees that it is not a good idea to urbanize Southeast Eugene area, and really wants to protect the area from pollution. If more houses were built here and more transportation, including roads and the amount of traffic, were developed, the nature would be lost more and more. As he explains, when a drop of rain return to the soil of the area, and when those drops contains dirty stuff that come from transportation and trash from houses, the soil would be damaged. Therefore, the coming park will not be like Amazon Park that includes pools, baseball fields, skate park, volley ball and soccer fields. This kind of park has possibility to make the community pollute. So, Richardson says that a neighborhood park or natural park will come to the area. A neighborhood park is just a 4 to 5 acre place that has playground equipment; in contrast, a natural park is around 200-acre place only for natural use such as hiking and picnic. “Our goal is,” Richardson said, “to make parks half mile from each house.”

Lisa Warnes said that she does not want any more development of Southeast Eugene as a vice president of the community. But, at the same time, she agrees with the idea by Philip Richardson, saying, “I like the idea.” She likes the plan to introduce some new trails or parks in Southeast Eugene. Going at construction of new parks or trail, she emphasizes on the shape of them. If a trail was installed, it should connect other trails, shaping like finger, not circle. But she has another concern; that is, North Eugene has also a few parks in its area. If the City of Eugene made progress only for South part of Eugene, including Southeast Eugene, people living in North part might feel unfairness about it because they also hope parks around their houses. “That’s the only concern,” says Warnes. She also mentions that there is no big development concern about Southeast Eugene, though she fought with Joe Glen who proposed housing plan in the area in 2006.

Even though there is no big project that can damage Southeast Eugene now, the area may always have possibility to face environmental problems. This is because, as Richardson says, the City of Eugene still cannot possess every area that have potential to be developed because of the city’s budget. If such project will leap into Southeast Eugene again, the area may have to fight again to protect their natural environment. To avoid this, it will be important for the city to possess the same identification jointly with citizens living around the area. Also, another important thought is that the city and city council should not be narrow-minded, but they should have the broad point of view. That is, people should think about whole the City of Eugene, not only too focusing on their own neighborhoods. As Warnes says, it is ideal that every citizen can live in the City of Eugene comfortably.

Sidebar #1

Photo presentation of Amazon Headwaters

Amazon Trail

Amazon Creek

In the Amazon Headwaters area

Water of Amazon Headwaters

A few housing around the area

Sidebar #2

The preserving plan by the City of Eugene

Presented by Philip Richardson, a landscape architect of a division of Public Works of the City of Eugene

The City of Eugene Neighborhood Map Photo courtesy the City of Eugene

The south part of the City of Eugene still remain as unaffected area in terms of construction or development.

The whole view of the City of Eugene, presented by Philip Richardson

South part of the City of Eugene, presented by Philip Richardson

Along the creek, which is showed by blue lines in an image above, nature is still remain in the south part of Eugene. Nature is showed by blown shape in an image above.

North part of the CIty of Eugene, presented by Philip Richardson

In the north part of Eugene, a housing plan has already more progressed than south part. Housing is showed by black shape in an image above.

About seigaohtani

Seiga Ohtani is a public relations professional based in Tokyo, Japan.
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