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Neighbors worried development will block access to trails

Neighbors are appealing the City of Eugene's proposed housing project Spring Boulevard, June 21, 2018. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. -- The City of Eugene has approved plans for a new housing development in south Eugene, but some neighbors aren't happy about it.

The neighbors appealing the City's decision have a long list of concerns, but what they may be most worried about is disturbing wildlife in the area and the hiking trail that connects them to it, a wooded oasis for neighbors living near Spring Boulevard.

"Trails like this are the very thing that draw people to Eugene," said neighbor Jason Brown.

"We've got three little children, we've got dogs, and hiking along here and experiencing the nature," said neighbor Jenny Jonak.

But what now connects them to nature could soon be used to connect to a 4.5-acre housing development.

Last month the City approved a proposal for a 14-lot housing development on the vacant spot, but they'll need to pave over a portion of the trail to get to it.

"So this, which is a connector for wildlife, hikers, joggers, people with children, people with dogs...this would be turned into a 30-foot wide paved street," explained Jonak during an interview at the site.

"The City is within its rights to do that," said City of Eugene Assistant Planner Daniel Lawler, who says the trail is on City-owned land, and the City has the right of way.

"City code has different regulations that require safe and adequate transportation systems for new developments,” Lawler explained. “In order for people to access their homes, we need a public street."

Lawler says the particular trail in question was built by EWEB and maintained by volunteers.

It connects to a network of other city-owned trails like the ribbon and scenic ridgeline trail.

The development is on a "needed housing" fast-track, and neighbors have scrambled to raise more than $4,000 to appeal the City's decision.

"We'll never get this trail once we lose it,” neighbor Brown said, “and the City will never be the same."

Ultimately, it will be up to the City of Eugene Planning Commission to hear them out and decide to pave or not to pave.

Neighbors will appeal the proposal at a public hearing on June 26 at 6 p.m. at Harris Hall.

If the proposal moves forward, the trail in question won’t look the same, but the City says plans include sidewalks to connect the trails to the neighborhood.

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