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The Trail of Peaceful Parks

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The Trail of Peaceful Parks
– Mike Hulter, EDN

My transportation in Eugene has been mainly by shoe, which has given me the good fortune to happen upon park after park after park. Nearly all of Eugene is connected through this network of meandering bike trails, hiking trails, jogging trails, preserved habitats, and specialized gardens. This unique aspect has been enabled by the continued efforts of various groups working in a variety of ways towards keeping nature near enough to notice. One of the more recent developments in Eugene’s park perpetuation is an additional dog park for the Amazon Parkway.

While Amazon already hosts a 3.4 acre dog park, there is a segment of the population that sees a need for a “small dog” park, where I assume dachshunds and chihuahuas will be free from the tyranny of great danes and dobermans. The “kiddie pool for doggies” as it were, will fittingly be less than a third of the size of the “big dog” park, which seems about proportional. This endearing initiative entails the forty or so supporters raising the money themselves, which in itself is a powerful show of community determination. Perhaps the fact that these people are willing to do it themselves is proof that it ought to be done. This new dog park follows in the footsteps of some other highly worthwhile organizations that have been key to Eugene’s extensive public parks.

Hendricks park, clocking in at 111 years old, is Eugene’s oldest park, and fittingly, has the most friends. Friends of Hendricks park is a group of around 300 members responsible for the development and continued maintenance of this natural preserve. Founded in 2001, they are responsible for such improvements as establishing a Native Plant Garden, creating the Moon Terrace, sponsoring tours and elementary education programs, installing a variety of informative kiosks, the continued maintenance and development of the extensive Rhododendron gardens, and on and on and on. To find something worth while and develop a community based on its maintenance and appreciation is a fairly common occurrence, but this level of functionality is extremely rare, especially when volunteers are concerned.

Like the name on this gravestone from the Pioneer Cemetery, Eugene’s extensive network fo parks holds clues as to why it’s different here. One route that I stumbled upon after giving up on my job search for the fiftieth time, took me in a massive spiral that started at the Pioneer Cemetery on U of O campus, went up and down two mountains, across the river twice, through downtown, down the length of Amazon Parkway, and ending at Hideaway Bakery behind Mazzi’s for a cup of iced coffee. It was my second day in town, and my logic started with “I’ll check out the campus.” followed by “hmm, Hendricks park is up there? I’ll get a good view of the city.” In Hendricks Park I discovered Pre’s rock, and a road leading down around and back to a footbridge. Cross the Willamette on the McKenzie footbridge, I still had no idea who Pre was and what his role in Eugene’s history may have been. Across the bridge, to the right, just a bit into Springfield, I discovered a sign describing Pre’s long distance running career and legacy. The sign also informed me that I was on his trail. Literally. So what else could I do but follow it?

photo - ElasticNovice

Pre’s is a soft trail modeled after the ones he ran on while training in Europe, and is made up of woodchips salvaged from local manufacturing plants. Apparently Pre was a predecessor to Eugene’s abounding tradition of green logics such as creative reuse. Jogging on asphalt and concrete sends shock waves through your entire skeleton, and has been linked to spine problems, shin splints, and various other hazards of athleticism. Pre’s soft trail is one that promises a prolonged and enjoyable jogging experience. Pre’s trail took me along the Canoe Canal, a 2 mile long water diversion created in 1974 for recreational boating, and into Alton Baker Park, Eugene’s largest at 400 acres, where I was able to hop back across the river on the ferry street bridge and Past the ancient and strange SMJ house on the Southern Slop of Skinner’s Butte, and up Skinner’s Butte for a second view of the city.

SMJ house - photo: Flickr (Unkanny)

Skinner’s Butte was once owned entirely by Dr. T.W. Shelton, the original owner of this unique victorian, But more importantly, Skinner’s Butte is Eugene’s origin, having been the site of Eugene Skinner’s trading post and ferry in the 1850s, so it made sense that I was suddenly in the center of the city. Skinner’s got a makeover 10 years ago with the Skinner’s Butte Master Plan, and maintains such niceties as the columns rock climbing wall, once a columnar basalt quarry. At this point I felt like I had seen all of Eugene from two different angles, but still hadn’t seen Eugene at all. So I cut through down town and made my way along the Amazon Parkway, past the site of the future small dogs park, and ended at Hideaway Bakery for an iced coffee, a fittingly hidden finale to my trek. It turned out to be a 9.5 mile walk which I regularly repeat in much smaller portions. Directions can be found here.

Michael Hulter spent his formative years in the Santa Cruz Mountains enjoying the serene redwood forest setting of the San Lorenzo Valley. He recieved his Bacheoler of Arts in English at UC Berkeley after which he quickly immersed himself in the culture and community of Berkeley's Caffe Med, the diner where Ginsberg wrote Howl. An avid writer and musician, Michael hopes to soon finish his "Premature Memoirs" and start playing music under the moniker Monkeyhands. When he's old he hopes to tour Junior Colleges teaching creative expression therapy.

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