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Washington Jefferson Park reopens after restoration, residents and business owners react

Mar 12, 2023

Washington Jefferson Park reopens after restoration

EUGENE, Ore -- Washington Jefferson Park, once the site of a massive homeless camp, has now been restored to it's original beauty.

Washington Jefferson Park in Downtown Eugene officially reopened to the public on Friday June 2, 2023. The fences surrounding the park were taken down. The park was closed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022.

The restoration took place over many months and cost $1.2 million. $1 million of that funding was provided by Federal and State funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and State of Oregon homeless funding.

Restoration work included removal of turf and topsoil in the park between Second and Sixth Avenues, new topsoil and grading work, and new grass seeding. Other improvements such as irrigation and electrical repair, graffiti removal, and cleaning and painting of hard surfaces also happened along with upgraded sidewalks and better lighting.

Residents in the area like John Rutledge couldn't be more excited about the reopening. He has been going to the park ever since he was a child, and hopes the restoration will bring people back and give the park some life once again.

He said, "Seeing the fences come down provides me with a feeling of welcome. I think it's more open, it's good to see."

Residents also hope the park brings the community closer. Rutledge added that while he loves that the old park has returned, he wants some new activity at the park to keep things fresh.

"I want to see events return to this area, that would be something I'd like to see," he said. "Community Engagement Events... Where we'd see food trucks, ethnic food trucks, that would be wonderful."

It's not just residents who are excited about the park reopening. Some local businesses are as well, such as CrossFit Evviva, a gym just across Washington Street. One of the co-owners, Spencer Kankel, believes the restored park will help his gym.

Kankel said, "It'll certainly look a lot nicer, make the area look nicer. Which is nice for us, you know, we have a lot of members who, you know, first impressions are a lot when people come here."

Kankel hopes his gym will be able to do some activities in the park.

He said, "One of our members recently mentioned that when it opens back up, as long as it stays clean we could possibly go over there and possibly do workouts, out in the park."

Other businesses also believe the park will help them reconnect with customers who were put off by the fences. Mara Watson, owner of Crux Rock Climbing Gym, certainly believes so.

She said, "It'll be nice, we've got customers on the other side of the park who didn't feel comfortable walking across it before."

While excitement is in the air, there are also some concerns about bad behavior and drug use returning to the park. Drugs were among the biggest concerns. The city knew residents were going to be concerned with the park reopening. That's why they brought in the Eugene Police and the Park ambassadors to keep an eye out.

City Spokesperson Kelly Shadwick said, "They will be monitoring the park for activity, and they were recently funded by the 2023 levy that was passed."

The 2023 levy she mentioned was passed by voters earlier this year, during the May 16 Special Elections. It provides $5.33 million in funding. The city is also working with the Whiteaker Community Council and neighbors to make more improvements. Some ideas being discussed include a possible dog park and some farmer's markets.