By Siobhan Cavan, edited by Reed Nelson
Autzen Stadium is known by all as the biggest man-made attraction on the opposite side of the Willamette to campus, but those new to Eugene might not realize that there is much more to the “other side of the river” than football. Spanning from the Ferry Street bridge, to past the Interstate 5, Alton Baker Park is an outdoor area of extreme diversity.
The rich, well-watered land is complimented by the Willamette River that runs down the south end boundary of the park. The City of Eugene website states that it was established in 1959 is recognized as Eugene’s largest developed park, made up of two areas, “the more developed West Alton Baker Park, and the 237-acre Whilamut Natural Area of Alton Baker Park.” The park’s humble beginnings were as a 20-acre land parcel, owned by Lane County, and has now expanded into a 400-acre haven. The park is named after Alton F. Baker in 1967, the co-founder of the Register Guard, and a man of big dreams for a beautiful, natural and public park on the north bank of the Willamette River.
Student Trudie DuToit is one of many this summer taking advantage of Alton Baker’s offerings. “I go to Alton Baker because the running trails are great, and there’s always a lot of people out there with their families or kids. It’s like a neighbourhood place. It’s safe.”
DuToit finds that the park reflects the ideals and lifestyles of Eugene and Oregon within one place. “It’s really beautiful there’s lots of trees, so the trail has shade in some places. You get to run past the ponds and the rivers. It goes on forever – you can go far.” Her biggest compliment? “It’s natural, you don’t want to change anything. If the path was bigger you would take more away from the nature, it would be less intimate.”
For her, like many others, Alton Baker offers a haven, away from the busy schedule of life. And like others, DuToit has realized that summer is the perfect time to explore Baker’s legacy. Exploration of the park can be as public or as personal as wished upon, due to the diversity of activities offered there.
Duck ponds, picnic areas, riverside trails, fields and shady walkways are just some of many of the areas available for investigation by anyone looking for a beautiful day in Eugene’s best park. Popular among dog-lovers is the off-leash dog park in Alton Baker, providing a much enjoyed area for dogs and humans alike. Owners can let their pooches off their leashes for a run around and quick splash in the facilities provided by the park, allowing for the rest of the park to be safe and controlled environment for everyone.
From an athletic standpoint, Alton Baker Park also offers opportunities to exercise while enjoying the outdoors. Past updates by KVAL news report that the City of Eugene may have been potentially discussing the plans for an 18-hole frisbee golf course in the park, which would not only bring in casual players, but serious ‘frolfers’ as well. Of particular note is the Whilamut Natural area on the eastern side of the park, which links to the surrounding lands with more open areas and bike paths. Despite cyclists keeping these trails well-oiled, overcrowding is never an issue with plenty of time for quiet and intimate enjoyment of a Eugene’s ‘miniature Oregon’ within Alton Baker Park.