Written By Andrew Creasey, Kourtney Hannaway, Tess Jewell-Larsen, and Emma Salo
Despite Trainsong’s lurking negative reputation, Neighborhood Association Chair Nicole Sharette is cleaning up her city segment and polishing it for success. Sharette takes time out of her busy schedule to share information about current Trainsong issues like the drop-out rate and safety. She explains how community members, civic government and local businesses are coming together to address these issues. Sharette also shares her thoughts on “bridge-building activism” and how to really make a community work.
Q: What is your experience working in the Trainsong neighborhood or local government?
A: I have spent almost two years serving in Trainsong and it has been an incredible experience. In that time I have seen my neighborhood change from a place with a bad reputation, no social capital and growing issues of isolation, crime and loss of property value. Trainsong is now an improving neighborhood, with potential for serious development and improvement.
We have created a great working relationship with the City of Eugene and other community partners while doing a serious assessment of issues facing our neighborhood and then creating a plan of action to address those issues. We will continue the process next June when we participate in a project oriented SNAP process, aimed at development of youth focused programs in Trainsong, to address issues of dropouts and youth crime.
I was also chosen by the City of Eugene to represent our community at the National Conference for Neighborhoods USA, this past Spring in Little Rock Arkansas. I look forward to the possibility of serving on the NUSA Board in the future with the support of The City of Eugene.
Q: What issues have there been in the Trainsong neighborhood? How have you addressed them?
A: As outlined in our Snap final product we do have several issues worth addressing. They came down to six priorities in no certain order they are: Access, Safety, Improve Neighborhood Image, Healthy Trainsong Neighborhood Association, Biking and Walking.
We have set out work plans to and action items to address the issues. The City helped us to design a plan where we are directly connected to a City liaison in each department that will be useful in implementing the plans. We have also identified and forged partnerships with a few Community Resource Groups, including Health Policy Research Northwest. We are currently working with Eugene Tree Foundation on a massive tree planting along Bethel Drive, nearly a hundred new trees. This directly addresses the issues of improving the neighborhood image, as well as taking a step closer to an ultimate plan to renovate the Bethel Ditch into the Bethel Bioswale, using native plants to natural filter the railroad runoff.
Q: Are any of those issues still currently a problem?
A: An overwhelming issue in the neighborhood is a much higher than average, truancy and drop-out rate. It may take years to drastically and consistently reduce the negative numbers. Unfortunately, support for this sort of effort can be convoluted, few and far between but we are working tenaciously to assure we are ultimately successful in creating real lasting solutions to this unfortunate trend. We look forward to working with several community partners in the near future including the Snap next Spring.
Q: Which do you feel needs to have the most attention currently?
A: There is a long list of complex issues to address but the most pressing is training for our neighborhood leaders as well as increasing involvement from neighborhood business and residents. We will continue to take trainings and workshops offered by the City to ensure we navigate the system in ways that will best benefit our neighborhood. We will also be continuing our outreach through a newsletter and a holiday event.
Q: How do the businesses and community interact with each other?
A: Our neighborhood is a nice mix of business and residential properties. We are home to some great local businesses, including Bakers shoes and Stringfield Lumber. McKenzie Recyclers and Lane Apex also have a commercial drop off location on the edge of Trainsong and we have a nice friendly local corner market.
People in the neighborhood are also employed at some of the neighborhood light and heavy industrial plants like Pacific Pallet, Ram Jack and the Hazelnut Dyer factory, among others. We also have neighbors who own their own businesses including home based businesses, a construction company and day cares. Businesses work together as can be seen at Odonnell’s Pub where they feature Oakshire Brew, made right here in Trainsong. Many local businesses in Trainsong have supported past events with cash and in kind donations as well.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: Just advice to those up and coming activists that are so full of spirit and positive attitude. I moved to Eugene to further myself as a “picketing, marching, stand-in”, type of activist. I learned that the kind of activism I enjoy now, is so much more rewarding and reaps such dramatic results, so much more than the resistance activism I practiced in my youth. I would love to have the youthful vigor I had back in the day, to apply to the productive, bridge-building activism I do now. I put a lot of energy into it but there is nothing like that early twenties drive to do well.
So my advice would be to take that energy and put it into something you believe in but put it there in the manner of service and reaching across ideals to address issues that will only be solved through open mindedness and teamwork. Ask yourself, “how can I serve in order to create the changes I want to see around me.” Then start by reaching out to your ‘neighbor.’