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Budget Cuts Trim Park Services

Fiscal year 2014 went out with a bang in Eugene July 1 and took park bathrooms, irrigation, trash service and jobs with it. Restrooms at three parks — Hendricks, Sheldon and Sladden — will close and neighborhood parks will see less watering and garbage pick-up, as $300,000 in reductions to park maintenance set in.

Eugene’s City Council approved the cuts June 9 as part of a balancing act to fill a $1.9 million deficit in the city’s general fund.

Neighborhood parks will be watered 75 percent less often and mowed half as frequently, according to a notice on the city’s website. Trash cans will be emptied two days per week less in parks that previously had trash service between five and seven days each week. The budget also eliminates two recently vacant park maintenance jobs.

“Because previous cuts have already reduced maintenance to below intended service levels, the impacts of this year’s reductions will likely be more noticeable,” the notice states.

City of Eugene Park Operations Manager Scott Milovich says the restrooms were chosen for closure because they’re near other restrooms. He says one bathroom will remain open at Hendricks Park; 21 bathrooms will remain open in the 78 neighborhood and community parks maintained by Parks and Open Spaces.

Jean Stacey, a local homeless rights advocate and member of SLEEPS (Safe Legally Entitled Emergency Places to Sleep), is organizing a protest — spurred by the park restroom closures — against what she says is an example of the city’s “mixed up priorities.” The dissent could take the form of protesters sitting next to large piles of manure bags or pulling toilets, labeled as the three parks, in wagons downtown as a penny tossing game.

“Keeping a bathroom open is not a huge budget item,” Stacey says. “And [SLEEPS] believe there are many things that are being done that are not as essential to the public health and safety as this is.”

Stacey says she hopes the protest will occur before the next City Council meeting July 14. “All of us in the public need to start communicating with our councilors,” Stacey says. “And that’s why we’re doing these things.”

The new fiscal year also brings less hours at the downtown library — which now opens at 1 pm on Sundays, rather than 10 am — and promises less funding for neighborhood newsletters, $50,000 less in recreation program scholarships for low-income individuals and families and an increase in some recreation program fees. 

To get involved in the protest, Stacey suggests participating in an independent act of opposition or emailing contact@eugeneSLEEPS.org. — Missy Corr