Whiteaker Neighborhood Improving

Residents Want Even More Change

By Ryan Broadhead

The Whiteaker neighborhood is a community with a reputation. The reputation was built on the back of environmental activism in the 1990’s and now the reputation has increased with the Occupy movement moving to Jefferson Park in the heart of the Whiteaker.

For residents living in the Whiteaker, the negative reputation that engulfs their neighborhood is changing.

John Karroll, a U.S. Postal carrier in the Whiteaker neighborhood for approximately 20 years said, “I have seen a great improvement in the neighborhood. It’s so much better off than it was before, that I couldn’t begin to identify problems,” he said. “The drugs on the streets before were a lot worse.”

The drug problem that Karroll referred to was a theme echoed by Kevin Maclean, a member of Democracy Resources. “Back in the early 1990’s there was an open Heroin Market right down the street, open 24/7, guys right out on the street,” he said.

Now Maclean says, “The Whiteaker is a great neighborhood to live in. The East Blair Housing Co-Op is a great organization doing great things as far as low income people being housed.”

From a business standpoint, some of the improvements to the neighborhood can be witnessed in the form of a farmers’ market on Sundays organized by The New Day Bakery. Along with the farmers’ market, Ninkasi Brewing Co., Oakshire Brewing, and Hop Valley Brewing Co., are all expanding into the neighborhood.

Like any neighborhood there are still many issues in the Whiteaker that need to be resolved though.

Alisha Walls, A Whiteaker resident says, “When people are camping outside, they are not disposing of their waste properly,” she said. “We’ve had feces in our alleyway and where we play Frisbee is constantly being urinated on.”

When asked for some suggestions of how she would like to see the problem resolved, Walls said, “A public bathroom or an outhouse for the community, so I could tell them to go down and use that instead.”

Another problem within the Whiteaker neighborhood is the lack of schools for children in the neighborhood.

According to Kerry Delf, The Communications Coordinator for Eugene School District 4J, “When the Whiteaker Elementary closed in the early 2000’s, many of those students went to River Road Elementary,” she said. “We no longer have a school in the Whiteaker area.”

Great strides have taken place in the Whiteaker neighborhood leaving some residents encouraged while others wish for more.

U.S Postal carrier Karroll said, “There has been no specific assault or drug sale because they know better and I have a cocky attitude,” he said. “I know where you live.” He concluded with a smile commonly found in the Whiteaker.

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Kevin Maclean, a member of Democracy Resources and Whiteaker resident since 1983

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Picture of the camping vans.

About ryanbroadhead

Living in Eugene, Ore., I am engulfed in everything baseball. I am also passionate about writing, photography, movies, and sports. Tracking down good concerts are my escape from real life, where I strive to always do the right thing.
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One Response to Whiteaker Neighborhood Improving

  1. MaBelle says:

    Ryan, I’ve lived in the heart of the Whiteaker neighborhood for 12 of the past 16 years. I remember the odd late-night screaming/swearing matches (it still happens). I remember the people defecating in the lot next door, the prostitutes and the pimps, the drug dealers. Despite all that, I still felt relatively safe in the neighborhood, and those people were always really friendly to me. I never used their services, but there were always people out on the streets keeping an eye on each other. True, it is nice to see the cosmetic improvements, to see the buildings around us being used to set up nice businesses, and the housing improving.

    I have to say, though, that the style of some of these improvements are truly costing the residents of this neighborhood quite a bit in terms of well-being. These businesses and party-related activities attract a lot of people, create major parking problems, and generate very loud music (despite usually being very good in quality, is still way too loud, and I’d like to be able to watch a movie in peace on a summer weekend, or simply enjoy some silence or my own music, or to be able to put my daughter to bed at a reasonable hour without her crying for hours about being kept up by the noise).

    Ninkasi Brewery’s machinery runs so loud that during the summers, I can no longer cool my house down at night by opening my windows without sacrificing my sleep. Either way, I’m doomed. I can’t sleep in a hot house, either. The brewery also reeks to high heaven. On warm days, it often smells like vomit or rotting flesh. And now we’re getting two more breweries?! Great…

    I lost a hundred dollars’ worth of freshly planted annuals two years ago from people trespassing and trampling plants during the Block Party. I could not afford to replace that, and I have not gotten any answers about from whom I can request damages or the money to set up fences to protect my property. Last year, my pre-school daughter’s plants she loved tending and was so excited to harvest were trampled and smashed by people attending the event, despite my temporary fencing. Most of us on the block thought this was just going to be a small neighborhood block party with our nice neighbors, yet it has now turned into a monster over the past five years (now coming up on the 6th).

    Whoever is making these decisions is not communicating with the neighbors who live here, and despite trying many times to figure out who to talk to about it, I get half answers or none at all. I frankly don’t like having to deal with drunk people carousing in the streets all night and waking up to people passed out on every corner. When Ninkasi got involved, we were promised that the festivities would close down by 10pm. Well, reality shows it doesn’t end until at least 3am. I know other neighbors feel the same way I do. We have tried to be good sports so far, but somebody needs to start speaking up about these problems. I’m really not sure what to do, except complain to somebody in city government, which I will do as soon as I can.

    It’s not like we can just up and move somewhere else, either, though I would dearly love to do so. We rent, but are extremely limited, income-wise. Other neighbors actually own their houses and find it doubly impossible to move, despite feeling the same desperation we do.

    There you have it! It ain’t all rosy in the Whit like the media and the business owners would have you believe.

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