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Goodbye Greenway?

Oakleigh Meadow Cohousing sets a chilling precedent

I love the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trail System. I use it almost every day to take walks with my son and dog. We love that where we live -— next to the West Bank section of the trail system — much of the trail is surrounded by the Willamette River Greenway, a mix of city parkland and open spaces. 

Though houses and businesses are not far away, the greenway provides a beautiful, calming buffer adjacent to the trails. The greenway is a refuge for plants, animals and human beings alike. It contains both forest and open fields, full of stands of wild fennel and sweet pea vines, and features frequent overhead scolding from chickadees and, more rarely, showier flashes of migrating tanagers and waxwings.

This land is now under threat.  

A partnership between local residents and out-of-state developers is planning to build the first residential development next to city parkland on this side of the river since the Oregon Legislature passed the Willamette River Greenway Act in 1973. The proposed site is a meadow, right at the end of my one-block, dead-end street, Oakleigh Lane. In the usual ironic way of housing developments, those promoting it have named the development after the natural space it will replace with paving and condos: Oakleigh Meadow Cohousing. 

OMC will include a large number of buildings housing 28 one-, two- and four-bedroom condominiums. There will be nearly 50 parking spaces in two large garages. All of this will be visible from the Riverbank Trail.

Bad enough, for most of us in the area (16 of the 18 homes on Oakleigh are fighting the development; the two others have not yet voiced an opinion).

But much more importantly, OMC sets a chilling precedent, opening the door for further development of privately owned land in the Willamette Greenway. If you enjoy walking, running or biking the trails along the Willamette River, consider that soon enough your views may no longer be of trees and fields, but of multiple housing or commercial developments. Are these the views you want?  

The Willamette River Greenway was created to protect open space, scenic views, native vegetation and public access. OMC threatens our city’s space, views and plants. It will take away habitat and beauty in Oakleigh Meadow. It could lead to the loss of much, much more space, views and vegetation elsewhere in the greenway. If the Eugene Planning Department approves OMC, it might approve any number of additional developments.  

The OMC’s application for a permit for site development is up for approval at a public hearing at the Planning Department on Oct. 2. The residents of Oakleigh Lane and McClure Lane (the bordering streets) urge Eugene residents and Riverbank path users to send city planners an email registering your opposition to this project and to tell city officials you don’t approve of using our city’s section of the Willamette Greenway for housing or commercial development.

The Willamette Greenway should be our legacy, a treasury of protected natural space. We must act now to protect it.  

Please contact Becky Taylor, the planner working on the OMC permit matter for the city of Eugene Planning Department, at becky.g.taylor@ci.eugene.or.us. For more information about opposition to this development, email the author at bovilsky2@gmail.com or saveoakleigh@gmail.com. The OMC application, with site maps of its many buildings and structures, can be found at wkly.ws/1jv.