Saving Blue River Park
If you ever decide to jump over the Cascades to Eastern Oregon, you will likely pass the the unincorporated community known as Blue River. Located just 40 miles east of Springfield, Blue River lies in the Willamette National Forest and is one of the hidden treasures of Oregon.
Originally settled in the late 19th century, the area saw a brief spike in activity during its Gold Rush-era, lasting from 1863-1912 before falling victim to resource depletion. Despite not having gold in the region since around 1912, Blue River and its residents (officially part of Lane County) have continued to push forward despite tough times.
Though there are a combination of factors that have kept Blue River going throughout the years, one of the main reasons the community has continued to push forward is because of the beautiful Blue River Park. Once a park that hosted various festivals and events, Blue River Park has seen some tough times as of late that have coincided with the town’s parks budget not having room to maintain everything within the park’s boundary.
Fortunately for Blue River Park and the town of Blue River, Bob Shafer is putting forth the initiative and effort to restore one of Oregon’s great parks. Shafer, who was once a resident of Eugene, always kept a close eye on the area of Blue River. Shafer says,
“I used to drive to Bend for work, and every time I would come by this area, I always said that if I had the chance, I would want to buy a place out here. It’s out in the country, there’s water, and the air is clean.”
After becoming fond of the area and what it had to offer, Shafer relocated from Eugene to the Blue River area about ten years ago, settling into a place just 60 feet from the Blue River Park. Shafer states,
“The park is a beautiful park. It’s an amazing park. It’s right on the river [and] there are actually a couple of trails that go directly down to the Blue River.”
With a pristine location, all Blue River Park needs is a little face-lift. Shafer explains that,
“Over the years, with nobody maintaining it, the wood rotted. Basically the money was never there to do a full-on restoration. The Park Board does get a small stipend but they have bigger projects.”
Though he does not receive any compensation for his efforts (so far), Shafer has pledged to revitalize Blue River Park:
“I took on the restoration of all the benches, the picnic tables, and the barbecue pits. I’m gong to make this a winter project. I want to have this park revitalized by spring. The time is on my hands to do it.”
The goals that Shafer has set for the revitalization project are both short-term and long-term, with his long-term goals benefiting much more than just the Blue River Park itself. Shafer says,
“I would like to bring something back like the Mountain Man festival or a logging festival. Really any festival that would bring a draw of people. It would be a generation of money for Blue River so the small businesses here could reap off of that. In the long run, it would be for everybody.”
Though his long-term goals are ambitious, Shafer believes they are doable:
“I think it’s obtainable. I just starting this about a month ago, you just got to keep pushing it and pushing it and it will take off.”
One way that Shafer is trying to get the project to take off is through creating a funding mechanism on the website, gofundme.com. Through this site, Shafer is hoping to raise at least $2,000 to help his revitalization efforts as well as to help pay for the materials that will be needed along the way. If, however, people are unable to donate financially, he is quick to point out that there are other ways they can help this beautiful park get back to its former pristine condition. Shafer says,
“They can spread the word. Word of mouth is a big deal.”
Shafer will also welcome volunteers who are willing to help him get the park back in shape.
“We need a full-on group of people to pull weeds and pull the vines off of trees so it’s not choking them.”
No matter the amount of financial or physical help he receives, Shafer is determined to revitalize one of Oregon’s hidden gems. Though not many people have heard of it, Blue River Park was once one of the go-to parks in the state. And it still has the potential become a great attraction once again. Shafer says,
“We want to get it back on track where people will be proud to use it.”
To learn more about Bob Shafer and his efforts to restore Blue River Park or to donate to his cause, go to http://www.gofundme.com/zs2j8.
Watch for Blue River updates in the EDN Headline News