City Tables Purchase Of Amazon Headwaters

The fate of the Beverly property and the Amazon Creek headwaters it contains is still up in the air, thanks to the Eugene City Council’s motion to table the issue in a Feb. 19 work session. The property is near Spencer Butte in the south hills.

The delay preceded the 4J School Board’s vote that night to accept the city’s offer to purchase Civic Stadium. The Southeast Neighbors and those who would like to see the headwaters protected from development say that some key points were glossed over in the work session (see Letters), and by tabling the matter of purchasing the Beverly property, the council is only stalling.

“We were hoping to see it move into executive session, which didn’t happen,” says Heather Sielicki of the Southeast Neighbors. “I understand there is that urge to talk, but it postpones the decision making, and at some point they have to take responsibility.”

During the work session, Councilor Mike Clark said that although Martin and Leslie Beverly lowered the asking price from $4 million to $2.5 million for their three tax lots that contain the ecologically sensitive Amazon headwaters, the price of $1.5 million is still too high for the two lots at risk of having houses built on them.

Councilor Claire Syrett said she was hesitant to purchase the headwaters with 2006 bond money intended for park and natural area acquisitions when other areas of Eugene, including her own ward, lack adequate park space. She and other councilors suggested that community members might contribute to purchase the land.

A few suggestions include The Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy and The Be Noble Foundation, headed by Deborah and Peter Noble, who started the foundation to save the Amazon Headwaters in honor of their son Erin, who died in a 2012 plane crash. Deborah Noble says the city could also look at using the money from the system development charge (SDC) fund, gathered from city development fees and used to pay for parks, new streets and other growth-related improvements.

Councilor Betty Taylor also suggested using SDC fund money to purchase parkland in other parts of Eugene while using the $1.1 million available from the 2006 bond measure to acquire the headwaters. “I think there’s nothing more urgent or similar to this particular property,” Taylor said, pointing out that just because the property exists in south Eugene doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be saved.

Kevin Matthews, former president of the Southeast Neighbors and candidate for East Lane County commissioner, says it’s up to the city to make the first move. “The city needs to provide the leadership to have this happen,” he says. “If the city makes that commitment, then I’m confident that will help everything move forward, and I know there are private funds to support it.”