The city of Eugene has more than 43 miles of alleys threaded between homes and businesses; some are paved, some gravel and some are grassy and overgrown. Where some people might see dreary and even dangerous passageways, Jeff Luers and the Eugene Green Alley Project see a chance to turn Eugene’s often potholed back alleys into environmental, walkable and even wildlife-friendly corridors. On March 31 you can “rally for the alley” at a Ninkasi Pints for a Cause fundraiser.
Luers, who is well known in the area for his environmental activism, says that the student-created initiative seeks to increase livability and pedestrian connectivity as well as effectively deal with stormwater. He says the project focuses on unimproved alleys primarily in the Whiteaker and Friendly neighborhoods.
Eugene allows for alleys to be improved by paving them, Luers says, but the Green Alley Project proposes eight different designs for alley types. Some call for vehicles or pedestrian traffic. Abandoned and overgrown alleys could become wildlife corridors — more beneficial than a wall of blackberries, Luers says. He adds, “I feel like the city of Eugene has to rewrite its alley improvement policy.”
Eric Jones, public affairs manager for Eugene Public Works, says Eugene’s alleys are public right-of-ways and improvements must meet city standards. Those standards call for paving alleys, and to do that neighbors who abut the alley are assessed a fee by the city.
The Green Alley Project proposes that rather than use regular asphalt, alleys that require paving use permeable pavement that can help treat stormwater and prevent pollution from running off into Eugene’s waterways. Luers says, “My personal goal is to get the city involved, by being invested, and create partnerships to open up doors for grants and improvements.”
Mark Schoening, an engineer with the city of Eugene, says it is possible under the alley improvements standards to use permeable pavements, if the soils beneath the alley allow for that.
City Councilor Chris Pryor says, “I am supportive of the Green Alley Project and would encourage the council to support it.” He says he isn’t necessarily sure it creates conflict with the city’s plan proposals that can’t be mitigated or worked out, and adds, “I don’t perceive that either Green Alleys or our code efforts are so inflexible as to create significant problems. The council is trying to be as responsive to individual neighborhood character as we reasonably can.”
The Green Alley Project has been endorsed by Izakaya Meji, Growler Guys, Sweet Life, Hop Valley, Falling Sky, Ninkasi and Oakshire Brewing, to name a few. To find out more, go to facebook.com/eugenegap or raise a pint at Ninkasi from noon to 9 pm Monday, March 31; 25 percent of pint sales go to Green Alley.