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Home » Eugene planning for more amenities at Golden Gardens Park
As Eugene plans to develop and expand Golden Gardens Park, neighbors and others who use the 223-acre park want to ensure the city preserves the habitat for wildlife, which seeks refuge in the ponds, trees and open spaces.
Golden Gardens, at the intersection of Golden Gardens Street and Jessen Drive on the northern edge of the Bethel neighborhood, was a stone quarry and then a gravel pit before the city bought it and turned it into a natural area decades ago.
Proposed amenities include vehicular access athletic fields on Clear Lake Drive, neighborhood parks near homes on Jessen Drive, and habitat protection for the three ponds.
When the city is complete in a decade or more, there will be “something for everyone,” said urban landscape architect Mark Kosmos as he walked through the park.
The city government is looking at three different planning areas, but it’s “not up to us to decide what the area and the park need,” Kosmos said.
As such, the city is seeking feedback from residents to determine what neighbors, park users and others want.
There’s “a lot of land” in the park, said Carolyn Burke, the city’s planning manager for parks and natural resources, and employees think there’s plenty of room for fields, a playground and similar facilities, and the nature area.
“What we’re asking for … is to help find the right balance between those three things,” Burke said during the first of three scheduled public sessions as the city spends several months gathering feedback.
About 100 people who attended this meeting in person and online agreed that the city wants to preserve the natural area. The ponds and surrounding fields are home to several species of wildlife, including a comeback of the western pond turtle after years of population decline.
Many also support the sports complex, but others questioned whether it is sufficiently used by teams and tournaments to justify the loss of habitat, and raised concerns about noise and light pollution, even with a buffer area.
The city is soliciting further feedback through a survey and will be working with a consultant to produce three draft concepts before another public meeting in the spring.
About the Golden Gardens Park
Golden Gardens Parks is centered around three ponds that were originally gravel pits created when crews were digging up gravel for the construction of the Beltline Road.
Lane County owned the park’s core area from the 1950s until 1974, when the city acquired 36 acres.
The ponds in the former quarry had steep banks for decades. The drowning of two teenagers in 2005 — a streak of at least four drownings in about a decade — prompted improvements to the pond to improve safety and living space.
The city acquired an additional 170 acres in 2007 and then worked with Friends of Golden Gardens, Prairie Mountain School, Active Bethel Citizens and the entire Bethel community to add:
A kilometer loop of bark that skirts the ponds and natural area. Natural, gently sloping pond edges to provide greater safety for park users while helping wildlife. More native trees, shrubs and grasses. Improved wildlife habitat. Emergency access roads and ramps to each pond, including a bridge over the canal, which is an extension of the Amazon tributary, to carry rainwater.
Eugene and his community partners completed these improvements in 2009.
There is $4.5 million available from two borrowing measures and fees the city is collecting from developers to make further improvements, Burke said. That’s “just the tip of the iceberg for what would be needed,” she said, but it’s enough for critical infrastructure, parking lots, a sports field or two, and habitat work.
Staff don’t have a final cost yet, she said, but they will develop it along with a plan for the phases during the master planning process.
The city doesn’t expect to bid for the first phase until 2026, Burke said.
Much of the land is new to city planning sovereignty, Burke said, and lacks city services like plumbing for a potential toilet. Road development is also patchy: A stretch of Jessen Drive along the park’s southern boundary is unpaved and has a pothole that looks more like a small pond.
“It’s a pretty raw piece of land and a lot still needs to happen and we need to understand a lot about how it needs to be developed,” she said.
Park has the space, access for more amenities
Although planning work is still in its infancy, the city has grounds and studies to support its three planning areas, officials said.
A feasibility study found that Eugene could support multiple athletic fields, Kosmos said, identifying Golden Gardens as “the only good area.”
“That has everything,” he said. “It has the space. It has access.”
The city currently shares athletic fields with the school district, Burke said, hearing from parents, coaches, youth athletic organizations and adult participants that more playing fields are needed.
Teams have to go to Portland, Bend, Medford and elsewhere for tournaments because the scattered fields in Eugene make it difficult to align, she said.
A neighborhood park makes sense for similar reasons, Kosmos said. There aren’t many neighborhood parks in Northwest Eugene, he said, and the area is generally underserved.
The spot identified for a neighborhood park is “really big,” Burke said. It’s about 12 acres, she said, while a typical neighborhood park is 4 to 6 acres.
That could mean room for more trails and natural areas, she said. Neighbors also identified a BMX park as a wish list in 2006.
While a sports complex and neighborhood park make sense, the city also doesn’t want to negatively impact wildlife, Burke said.
Staff are working with experts to identify and mitigate potential impacts, she said, including by establishing a “significant buffer.”
The city will protect the turtles’ habitat, as well as the people who care about other wildlife
Eugene is proud of the western pond turtle’s return to the park, Kosmos said, and is committed to protecting its habitat.
The city has already fenced off an area along one of the banks of the pond. This fenced habitat protects the nests from raccoons and other predators, Kosmos said. Staff also mark and monitor the nests, he said.
During the public meeting on the proposed additions, the townspeople said they want to see more than just the protected turtles.
They talked about hawks and other birds of prey that hunt in the fields, egrets and egrets that nest in the area, and other species they like to see in the tranquil park.
Golden Gardens is a hidden gem that people said they didn’t want to see ruined, although to varying degrees people assumed it would spoil the park.
Find out more, take a survey
For more information on potential plans for Golden Gardens Park, visit engagement.eugene-or.gov/goldengardens. This page contains a link to a survey.
Contact Megan Banta, the city government watchdog, at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @MeganBanta_1.