PARKS and RECreate: Picture. Plan. Play. is a community conversation to help us identify priorities for the next 10-plus years of Parks and Recreation in Eugene.
This report summarizes 12 months of work spent collecting ideas and opinions from the community and considering the strengths, challenges and opportunities of the existing Parks and Recreation System. Some of the findings were as expected, and some were surprising. Together they lay a solid foundation from which recommendations for the future can be built.
The strengths of Eugene’s Parks and Recreation System are many. Most striking are the strengths that are intrinsic to this unique landscape and community. These are strengths that cannot be bought or created, but are deeply rooted in people and place.
1. Parks and Recreation Services are highly valued by Eugeneans. Eugene’s Parks and Recreation System is beloved across our community and is considered an essential component to the community’s quality of life.
2. The natural beauty of Oregon is our backdrop.
The park system boasts over 4,300 acres of natural and developed park areas within the context of the broad Willamette River basin and its adjacent buttes and ridge lines.
3. Eugene’s park system is large, diverse and connected.
When looking at a map of Eugene’s parks, three broad landscape features that create connections of land, water and habitat through the community become clear.
4. Parks provide environmental benefitsand cost savings.
Park lands provide critical environmental functions related to clean air, clean water and flood control.
5. Recreation programs benefit thousands.
Eugene’s recreation programming provides services and experiences that create social connections and support the health and wellness of the community. City recreation programs create access to amazing activities for people who otherwise would not be able to afford them.
6. Parks and Recreation support community health and wellness.
Many research studies have shown that the presence of parks and recreation in urban areas provides social, physical and mental health benefits for people.
7. Parks and Recreation staff and volunteers are talented, passionate public employees and community members.
Throughout the PARKS and RECreate outreach process, Eugeneans praised Recreation Program staff and instructors, and acknowledged the great work done by Parks and Open Space Operations staff and Eugene Park Stewards coordinators.
The challenges faced by Eugene’s Parks and Recreation System are generally not new - we’ve been working on them for years. But the magnitude of each of these issues has grown, as has the need to find solutions.
1. Park Maintenance and Operations funding
The ongoing under-funding of maintenance of parks is a concern for Eugene’s park patrons and community members. Listening sessions with key partners in the community revealed this issue to be their biggest concern.
People generally feel safe in most of Eugene’s parks- 40 percent of phone survey respondents strongly agreed and 46 percent somewhat agreed, that parks and natural areas are safe to use. However there are parts of the system where people do not feel safe, and many members of the community expressed their concern. These areas generally correspond to locations of illegal camping. 87% of survey respondents say they are concerned about the impacts of illegal camping and vandalism in Eugene Parks.
The inability of the City to adequately fund park maintenance and invest in renovation and updating of community centers and pools has contributed to the acceleration of aging infrastructure and, often, reduction in park and recreation services.
The geographic distribution of Parks and Recreation facilities is a problem that has been around for a long time. Strides have been made to address this inequity through the purchase of park land in areas that were previously unserved. But little progress has been made in improving access to community centers and pools for the whole city.
While park maps show geographical areas of needed Parks and Recreation services, additional research showed the importance of cross-cultural inclusion and access to services for people of all abilities and incomes.
If all the opportunities that emerged from the community outreach were summarized into one theme, it would be to “build on our strengths”. At a broad level Eugeneans spoke to us about what they love about the Parks and Recreation System, what they want and how to best move into the future.
1. Take care of what we have.
When asked to prioritize future financial investments, survey respondents overwhelmingly and repeatedly voiced the importance and value of “caring for what we have.”
People voiced the importance of informative and clear signage, places to sit, shade and shelter from the elements, lighting, connective trails and paths and – perhaps most important – restrooms.
3. Provide more access to water.
Between our beloved Willamette River and City pools, Eugene’s residents have a real and deep appreciation for access to water during our hot and dry summer months.
4. Provide more community-based events.
Parks in Eugene are places where people come to socialize, meet their neighbors, engage in civic contributions and just get outside.
The following system-wide trends will have implications for the services that Parks and Recreation provide:
1. Eugene’s population is growing, aging and becoming more ethnically diverse.
2. Many Eugene families are struggling economically.
3. Eugene and Lane County residents are suffering health consequences of inactivity.
4. Safety and security in parks is a growing concern.
5. The effects of climate change will have impacts on parks and the community.
In the “Collect” phase, we set out to do the most thorough community engagement and evaluation of Eugene’s Parks and Recreation System to date. We combined traditional public outreach tools with creative new ways to reach out to more people than ever before. We succeeded: 7,000 voices chimed in.
- Pop-up Events.
- Latino Community Outreach.
- Four surveys.
- Stakeholder and staff listening sessions.
- Website and social media.
In addition to a robust and creative outreach effort, several technical studies helped us better understand the system of today and opportunities for the future.
- Equity mapping showing the geographic distribution of park and recreation services in Eugene.
- BenchmarkingEugene's system against other comparable cities.
- Trends research.
- Recreation facility evaluations.
The findings in this needs assessment will provide a basis for the creation of recommendations for the future of Eugene’s Parks and Recreation System. Based on what we’ve learned, five themes have emerged to guide this work.
Serve the entire community
Provide equitable and welcoming access to parks and recreation facilities and programs regardless of geography, culture, ability or income.
Care for what we have
Ensure that basic amenities are provided and that they are safe and clean. Be responsible stewards of parks, land, and buildings by making the best possible use of what we have.
Understand where growth of the system is required to meet the needs of the community. Focus on quality of life and build on existing strengths.
Integrate with other systems
Make regional connections and recognize the inter-dependence of Parks and Recreation with public health, transportation, land use, green infrastructure, education, art and culture and economic development.
Invest in partnerships
Continue to leverage Eugene’s assets and expand services to the community through effectively partnering with public agencies, non-profits, the private sector and community volunteers.
Another round of community outreach will take place in the summer of 2016 to get feedback on draft recommendations. We’ll start with workshops throughout the community in February and we’ll be in neighborhoods throughout the City. Here’s the schedule:
Childcare and food will be provided so we hope you’ll join us.
We look forward to continuing the robust community conversation we began in 2015 and to moving towards implementation of a new System Plan in early 2017.
For More Information
Want all the details?
Read the full Needs Assessment Report, available now at www.eugparksandrec.org