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Lane County Parks Plan Could Revive Large Events

Leasing water rights? Logging? What about bringing back Faerieworlds, the Dirty Dash and other events? Lane County’s park system is massive in scope — it encompasses 4,300 acres from the coast to the Cascades, including everything from marinas and campsites to hiking and horseback riding — and also massive is the draft master plan Lane County Parks produced last month.

For the first time since 1980, Lane County is updating its Parks and Open Space Master Plan, and the county is now taking public comment on the almost 300-page document. 

The issue of large special events in some of the parks, including Howard Buford Recreation area, aka Mount Pisgah, is causing the most stir, judging from letters to the editor EW receives on the issue. 

Bob Emmons of LandWatch Lane County writes, “Unfortunately, historically inconsistent and inadequate funding has driven a public service agency to pimping for private exploitation of our county parks,” as he criticizes the plan. He writes that if “Lane County Parks Division has its way, in 2016 the air over the bottomlands — and parks throughout the system — will heave with the amplified vibrations of multiple large music events.”

Emmons is referring to events such as the 2013 Kaleidoscope Music Fest at Buford, which drew noise complaints from more than a mile away.

Mike Russell, division manager for Lane County Parks, says that the county’s Large Events Task Force hired ECONorthwest to do a “scientific poll,” available on the task force website, that showed the public had “general support for large events, as long as they are well managed,” particularly at Buford. 

According to the draft plan, a 2015 Lane County Parks Survey showed that “92 percent of all respondents stated that the Parks Division should allow large events or allow large events under some circumstances.”

Russell says the task force is still working on a draft of its recommendations which, in addition to public comment, will be taken into account by the Lane County Commission when it votes on the final master plan update. He adds that large events could be a source of revenue for the parks. 

Currently 19.43 percent of the parks’ $3.5 million budget comes from camping and from group reservations at CampLane, and the next largest portions, around 12 percent each, come from RV registration and the transient room tax. Only 0.56 percent of the current budget comes from “amusements” such as large events.

Russell says some of the potential revenue sources the plan lists are “brainstorming.” In addition to special events, those include developing and improving existing campgrounds and marinas as well as more potentially controversial proposals such as timber revenue through logging areas such as Blue Mountain Park near Cottage Grove or leasing out water rights. 

Russell says two emerging needs highlighted in the plan that are not yet met by Lane County Parks are for mountain bike trails, potentially at Ada Park on the coast, and disc golf at Peaceful Valley Park in the Lorane area. Both of those parks are identified in the master plan as able to accommodate large events. 

Go to wkly.ws/22e to download a copy of the draft master plan, which is also available at Eugene, Springfield, Cottage Grove and other public libraries. Public meetings run from Sept. 10 to Oct. 8, with a Eugene meeting 6 pm Sept. 24 at Harris Hall. See Activist Alert.