07 May 2021
Tax dollars at work: How Eugene is using 2018 parks bond, levy funds
Eugene Register-Guard USA TODAY NETWORK
More than a dozen projects funded by Eugene's parks bond approved by voters in 2018 should be complete by the end of the year, and safety and maintenance have greatly increased because of the levy.
Thirteen of the 38 projects getting funding from the $39.5 million bond should be complete in the next eight months, Carolyn Burke, who manages planning for the city's Parks and Open Space department, said during a recent Eugene City Council work session.
“Given the challenges of this last year, I’m pretty amazed that we’ve been able to make that amount of progress,” Burke said.
Funding from the levy, passed in 2018 along with the bond measure, also has been helpful this year to provide maintenance and ensure safety as the city’s parks were “very heavily used,” said Craig Carnagey, director of Parks and Open Space.
Here’s what the bond and levy have been used for so far, according to the staff presentation.
Renovations and new projects
Going into 2020, the city already had completed a renovation of the playground at Tugman Park. Last year, the city replaced artificial turf fields at Meadow View School, Willamette High School, Spencer Butte Middle School and the Arts and Technology Academy.
Another major project also wrapped up in 2020 with the rebuilding of the Amazon Park running trail.
“We basically rebuilt this trail from the ground up,” Burke said.
The project was “a little tricky” because it had wetlands on one side and creek on the other, she said, but the trail now has a rock base that will stay dry year-round.
Additionally, work is wrapping up at Echo Hollow Pool and Fitness Center. This renovation added a new area for offices to increase space for locker rooms and other things, put ramps in both pools and added a slide and splash area.
Four other projects are currently under construction, according to the presentation:
Campbell Community Center:
The city as adding a 6,000-square-foot wing to this community center, which staff said is “one of the busiest” in Eugene. Renovations also include more outdoor gathering space, a great hall that will be the largest gathering space in the city’s recreation inventory and more fitness space.
Sheldon Pool & Fitness Center:
Work has started to improve the pool, work that includes adding a spa and hot tub. Construction should be complete by March 2022.
h Downtown Riverfront Park: The park, which stretches along the Willamette River, is opening this summer
h West Bank Path lighting: This project is paired with a pavement replacement project and is putting energy- efficient lights along the path leading up to Maurie Jacobs Park. The project is set for completion in May.
Will Stroud, front, runs along the newly renovated North Amazon Running Trail. Stroud described feeling appreciative for the renovations and joked that the old lamp posts were so wobbly, they could have been drunk.
DANA SPARKS/THE REGISTER-GUARD
Additionally, construction has started or will start soon on habitat restoration in Amazon Creek, a major renovation of Berkeley Park, tennis court renovations at Churchill High School, completion of the loop trail at Delta Ponds, lighting projects at multiple parks and the creation of a new park on the city’s northeast side at Striker Field. A handful of other projects are in the planning phases, and habitat restoration is ongoing along the Ridgeline Trail system and in Skinner Butte Park. As of the end of the second fiscal year, the city had spent $8.6 million of the $39.35 million bond.
Safety and maintenance through levy
Over the last two years, the city has used the levy to increase maintenance in parks and make them safer as required by the ballot measure voters approved in 2018, Carnagey said. The levy raises $3.15 million a year and costs taxpayers an average of $41 a year, according to the report. To up maintenance efforts, the city has increased custodial services by 55%, made 22% more public restrooms available and added four custodial and maintenance positions, according to the presentation.
The city also added a maintenance position for trails and natural areas, increased custodial services at trailheads by 40% and resurfaced 7.6 miles of trails. According to the staff presentation, the city also has added 45 new trash cans, 19 new benches and 12 new picnic tables.
A new team funded by the levy focuses solely on “illicit activity” in the parks, which staff explained includes graffiti and camping. In the past two years, the city has:
h Added one full-time position and four seasonal positions to this team
h Cleaned up more than 4,700 camps
h Increased graffiti removal by 500% As part of increasing safety, the levy funds two park resource officers and five park ambassadors, three of which work for the city year-round. The ambassadors, Carnagey said, welcome people to parks and remind them of rules.
Officials happy with progress
Councilors had nothing but good words for staff after the presentation.
Councilor Emily Semple noted it was nice to have a work session focused on something positive.
“Every update we’ve received on this bond and levy has been positive and exciting,” councilor Clair Syrett said. She’s noticed improvements in parks.
Councilor Randy Groves was pleased to see how the money has been spent, saying it’s “important to keep the good will and faith of our public” by following what the ballot measures laid out.
The projects are spread out across the city, councilor Alan Zelenka noted, meaning everybody gets a little bit back from the bond and levy.
Contact city government watchdog Megan Banta at email@example.com.
Work continues inside and out on a remodel and expansion of the Sheldon Pool & Fitness Center in Eugene. CHRIS PIETSCH/THE REGISTER-GUARD