By John Locanthi
EUGENE, Ore. – A Trainsong resident pointed out the numerous potholes as he walked along Wilkie Street Thursday afternoon, lamenting his inability to ride down it on his recently tuned up motorcycle.
“I’m all over Eugene and I see these roads getting fixed up in all these nice neighborhoods, and I’ve been here for years and I haven’t seen anything happen,” Christopher Kulas said. “It’s disheartening.”
Improved roads and sidewalks would cost each household in the neighborhood $9,000. In 2008, the median household income in Trainsong was $25,839, nearly $15,000 lower than the average for the city of Eugene.
“It’s the fact that people in this neighborhood don’t have money. Even the landlords don’t have money,” said Nicole Sharette, president of the 2-year-old Trainsong Neighborhood Association.
Trainsong was not a planned neighborhood; it sprung up between the train tracks.
“We were supposed to be an industrial area with no neighbors,” Sharette said. “When they started building houses, they did not pay for the improved roads so we don’t have improved roads.”
“The residents today are suffering from the decisions that homeowners 50 to 60 years ago never made,” said Rene Kane, Neighborhood Planner for the City of Eugene.
Trainsong Park was created in 1984 lies at the end of Edison Street. The lawn is usually green and freshly mowed. Fun for All, a program funded by the City of Eugene, runs a free drop-in day camp for children over the summer.
“[The park is] a good idea, and the city does do maintenance to it,” said Rob Pelletier, a resident of Trainsong. “You would think that if they wanted this area to look nice, they would address the issue of the approach to it instead of looking like a dump coming down the street leading into a nicer area.”
According to Jesse Lohrke, a member of the Trainsong Neighborhood Association, the association is working with the city to “identify some of these things and come up with work plans to address them with some of the neighbors.”
Some residents believe that the funding for the desired improvements has already been provided through tax money.
“In Springfield, I’ve seen storm drains and curbs in way nastier neighborhoods,” Kulas said. “Why is that a reality? The taxes are still being paid, but we’re being neglected.”
One aspect of the problem is the high ratio of renters-to-homeowners in the neighborhood.
“If you have for instance a high rate of renter-occupied units, there’s very little incentive for a property owner to have those streets improved because they have to pay for them,” Kane said.
One thing is certain: nothing is going to happen if the neighborhood doesn’t work together. “Any changes that happen here will happen when more neighbors get involved and do less finger-pointing at the city or the railroads,” Sharette said.