Future of Eugene Parks Will Be City Club Topic

Eugene parks face a $2.3 million operational maintenance budget gap

Lack of funding in recent years has led to cracked pavement, aging playground equipment that needs to be replaced and other maintenance needs in Eugene’s parks. City parks officials plan to bring this issue before the City Council as soon as March.

Next week, parks officials will present their ideas and take questions in a panel discussion at a meeting of the City Club of Eugene.

Eugene’s Parks and Open Space Division faces an annual $2.3 million operational maintenance budget gap and a $30 million capital backlog for developing and purchasing park land, city officials say.

Also on their list of needs is money to maintain 17 undeveloped parklands in southwest Eugene, Santa Clara, Bethel and Willakenzie.

The Parks and Recreation System Plan, also known as PARKS and RECreate, seeks to identify priorities for the next 10 to 20 years of parks and recreation in Eugene by addressing current problems, preparing for future population growth and trends, and creating a vision to benefit current and future generations.

The plan includes funding the $2.3 maintenance gap and developing one community park and five neighborhood parks in underserved areas within five years, according to a parks report.

At the City Club meeting, Parks and Open Space Planning Manager Carolyn Burke, Parks and Open Space Director Craig Carnagey and Recreation Services Manager Sandy Shaffer will present the Parks and Recreation System Plan to attendees.

Even with funding issues, Carnagey says his department can still take care of Eugene parks — but not at the level the public expects. “We’re not doing it at an adequate level to keep providing the quality of services the community has been expecting over the years, and it’s slowly starting to diminish,” Carnagey says.

Following through with funding the budget gap and backlog will require a majority vote from the City Council on a proposed measure with a specific plan on how to fund park projects, he says. The most common funding methods are a voter approved property tax levy and bond measure (both funded through property taxes), Burke says.

A levy would cover the cost of daily park operations and maintenance, and a bond would fund capital projects, such as building a new community center.

If a measure were to pass both a bond and levy, this would cost the median homeowner $64 a year ($31 a year per household for the bond and $33 per a household a year for a levy, which expires after 5 years), according to a report commissioned by the city from The Trust For Public Land.

The idea of the City Club presentation is for the public to feel informed enough about the Park and Recreation System Plan that they “can participate in the decision making process,” Burke says.

After the officials’ presentation at the meeting, there will be discussions among each table. Then City Club members can address officials with questions. Nonmembers can ask members to pose a question.

The City Club meeting will begin at noon Friday, Feb. 3, at the University of Oregon’s Baker Center, 975 High Street. Admission is $5 for nonCity Club members. Admission is free for City Club of Eugene members and students with student ID. Lunch is available for an extra charge. The meeting will also broadcast at 6:30 pm on Monday, Feb. 6, on KLCC 89.7 FM.