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Be Noble

Saving Eugene’s Amazon Headwaters Keystone
Erin Noble in Peru.
Erin Noble in Peru.

In the hills of south Eugene sits 26 acres of land, called the Beverly property, that neighbors treasure for the trees, the wildlife and because the land is home to the headwaters of Amazon Creek. Deborah and Peter Noble say their son Erin, who died in a plane crash in Veneta near the Oregon Country Fair this summer, loved to hike from their house up to Spencer Butte, often following the trails through the Beverly property. Developers have tried repeatedly to turn the steep-sloped land into houses. Each application has been defeated, but the developers keep trying. The Nobles have started the Be Noble Foundation in order to save the Beverly property and turn it into a permanent part of Eugene’s parks and open spaces. 

Together with City Councilor Betty Taylor, Commissioner Pete Sorenson and Tsunami Books owner Scott Landfield, the Nobles announced the launching of the nonprofit Be Noble Foundation and its effort to raise $1 million to conserve the property, which they are now calling the Amazon Headwaters Keystone because, as Kevin Matthews of Southeast Neighbors said at the fundraising announcement on Oct. 23, “This is the keystone that if we conserve this property we can have a connection all the way through our watershed.” The Amazon is connected to the Long Tom and then to the Willamette River from which many communities draw their drinking water.

Deborah Noble, Matthews, Taylor and others have been working for years to protect the Amazon keystone area from development. Noble says right before Erin died, they had a conversation about a meeting she and other advocates had with city staff and the Beverlys about the cost of buying the property. Noble says that it would cost about $2.5 million to get the property to a state in which it could be developed, and selling the houses that would be built on it is projected to reap only about $3.5 million. Those numbers mean that Martin and Leslie Beverly would get only about $1 million for the developed property. Noble said the property’s current market value is $800,000 on tax statements. Reportedly the Beverlys were offered $1 million for the property, but the couple thought the property was worth more. Public entities can only buy property at fair market value, Matthews said, where a private foundation can offer more money. 

The Be Noble Foundation is looking to pay a fair price to a willing seller, Landfield said. He said 27-year-old Erin Noble was the youngest shareholder in Tsunami Books and an effort to save the land that Erin spent his life wandering is “a cause I can get behind.” Landfield wants to raise $1 million to save the property.

Deborah Noble says that Erin told his father after the Country Fair was over he was going to jump in and help his mother with the effort to save the Amazon headwaters, but Erin died before the Fair began. Taylor and Sorenson both pointed out that the preservation of the Amazon Headwaters Keystone would benefit not only water and the ecosystem but also benefit people throughout Eugene in that the property is reachable through walking, biking and even by bus. “It’s a crucial area for wildlife,” Taylor said, “a connective area.” Taylor said while efforts have been made to restore the lower Amazon and the Long Tom River — the Country Fair has been active in that work — the water in the upper Amazon in the keystone area is already affected by development, herbicides and road building. More houses would increase the problems, Taylor said. 

Matthews pointed out while both Taylor and her challenger for the Ward 2 City Council seat, Juan Carlos Valle, have voiced support for saving the Amazon headwaters, Taylor has championed the issue for years.

On Nov. 7, Erin Noble’s birthday, there will be a celebration featuring music, drumming and more from 6 to 9 pm at the Noble’s solar panel-powered warehouse for their West Wind Forest Products, 3445 W. 1st Ave. At 7:30 pm Saturday, Dec. 1, there will be a fundraiser for the Be Noble Foundation’s Amazon Creek Headwaters Fund at Tsunami Books.