May 22, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Bethel residents present 375 signatures to protect Golden Gardens turtles

7 min read
Maya Lazaro: "I implore the City Council to reject the use of artificial turf in the proposed sports complex and to establish a 500-foot buffer to safeguard wildlife, a viewpoint supported by Beyond Toxics. We cannot compromise the health of our vibrant natural areas when reasonable alternatives exist. Wildlife spotting is a valid form of recreation, too, and a major draw to the park."

Bethel residents speak up for turtle habitat at Golden Gardens Park, as 375 people sign petitions against microplastics. During the public forum Nov. 13:

[00:00:11] Lin Woodrich (Active Bethel Community): My name is Lin Woodrich. I’m the Active Bethel Community co-chair. I’ve lived in the Bethel area over 25 years. I’m speaking for the Active Bethel Community board.

[00:00:20] The Golden Garden Sports Complex will be discussed at your upcoming work session on Wednesday.

[00:00:25] The three options listed in your packet all have the plastic artificial turf specified and no mention of the 500-foot buffer to protect the turtles. Please include natural turf management and the 500-foot buffer if you approve this bond measure. We sent you a letter on Sept. 8, 2023, and I emailed it to you again today.

[00:00:44] In this letter, we wrote: The Bethel community has major concerns about the proposed buffer zones and potential use of plastic artificial turf at the future sports complex at Golden Gardens Park. The community has concerns that the buffer zones at the site won’t meet the minimum recommendations by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife that call for at least a 500-foot buffer around turtle habitat for minor infrastructure like picnic tables and 1,650-foot for major infrastructure like roads.

[00:01:14] The current draft proposals for the park include a buffer of just 200 feet to the east and north of the ponds with a larger buffer of 500-foot only around the west bank of the ponds—with the actively managed turtle nesting area.

[00:01:28] The city should follow the ODFW best practices for turtle management, which the city of Eugene helped develop and is also recommended by the Biohabitats report, and ensure there is at least a 500-foot buffer around the ponds for any new development.

[00:01:42] The community is also extremely concerned about the risk of microplastics from plastic artificial turf running into the ponds, affecting the natural environment at the ponds, entering the Long Tom and Willamette River watersheds, and being ingested by people who catch and eat fish from the ponds.

[00:01:59] The ODFW best management practices for turtles suggest limiting runoff for chemicals. Stopping microplastics from AstroTurf entering the ponds would help address this goal. Protecting water quality and endangered species is just, if not more important, than having 12 months of access to plastic turf.

[00:02:17] And thank you again for moving neighborhood planning ahead for Bethel.

[00:02:22] Jere Rosemeyer: Jere Rosemeyer. My comments tonight regard the Golden Gardens Park and the proposed expansion of a sports complex. Earlier in the year myself and another concerned citizen who live close to the park did a signature gathering, canvass of the neighborhood right around the park from the park down to Barger on, including all the main streets that run into the park, and I will read the topic, the phrasing of the petition:

[00:03:00] ‘Protect Golden Gardens Pond Park. Eugene mayor and city council: Golden Gardens Ponds Park is one of the few natural areas in Bethel and is a crown jewel of the community. The site features herons, bald eagles, and the endangered western pond turtle. As the city seeks to add a large sports complex to the site, please protect the natural area by ensuring (a) no plastic AstroTurf, and (b) a 500-foot buffer between the park and between the ponds and the new sports complex. Thank you, the undersigned members of the community.’

[00:03:46] We gathered 225 signatures in that neighborhood right adjacent to the park. And I also have a printed-out list of all the people who signed the petition.

[00:04:01] Zach Mulholland: My name is Zach Mulholland. Beyond Toxics recently started a new petition regarding the Golden Gardens project, picking up where the community petition left off. It’s very similar. It has 150 signatures just thus far. Can we go ahead and read it?

[00:04:14] ‘Golden Gardens Park is one of the few natural areas with wildlife habitat in Bethel and is a crown jewel of the community. The site features herons, bald eagles, and the soon-to-be-protected western pond turtle. The city of Eugene is proposing a new sporting complex to meet the community’s need to accommodate recreational facilities.

[00:04:29] ‘ While we support local sports and recreation, the proposal will include adding a significant amount of plastic artificial turf to this highly-sensitive habitat. We urge the City Council and the Golden Garden Park Advisory Committee to reject proposals to use artificial turf for the sporting complex.

[00:04:45] ‘Artificial turf is plastic grass that disintegrates when exposed to sunlight and contributes to the environmental burden of microplastics in local and global environments. Microplastics are also absorbed into the blood of wildlife and people and has been linked with cancer, particularly youth who are in the goalie position.

[00:05:01] The bottom line is that installing acres of microplastics at Golden Gardens Park poses a health risk to those that visit and the animals that make their home in this lovely park.

[00:05:09] We also urge the city council to establish a 500-foot buffer between the sporting complex infrastructure and the ponds to prevent disruption to wildlife. Golden Gardens is home to the sensitive western pond turtle, a native reptile, which is up for listing as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act.

[00:05:25] Young Northwest pond turtles already have a hard time reaching adulthood due to increased habitat destruction and fragmentation. A brightly lit sports complex and the presence of thousands of people right next to their habitat on a regular basis will only serve to further reduce the number of young turtles reaching maturity.’

[00:05:40] And I’ll drop a copy of the petition and the signatories just thus far for the public record.

[00:05:46] Bob Petit: My name is Bob Petit. First of all, I would like to say I oppose the use of artificial turf if it is necessary to build a multipurpose sports facility on the Golden Gardens land.

[00:06:00] Secondly, I’d like to make sure the City Council has a hydrologist as part of the planning process to determine how and what effect the impact of building a multipurpose sports facility would have on the water table in the general area, both immediately and in the future, as water is becoming a very serious issue everywhere.

[00:06:27] I would strongly like to recommend that the city council consider involving Native Americans in the planning and review of the usage of the Golden Gardens land in conjunction with expanding the nature wildlife aspects of the land.

[00:06:47] And finally, I would like to recommend that the planning money be utilized to build and develop an educational center for expanding the cultural knowledge regarding the Native Americans from the Eugene Springfield area, in conjunction with expanding the nature, wildlife, physical, and educational elements of Golden Gardens.

[00:07:13] The benefits from an educational health and mental health point of view for all ages would far exceed the benefits of building a multipurpose sports facility, and I do plan to send a note, a paper, if you will, that I refer to as what- if:

[00:07:38] ‘Hey mom, look, what is that?’ ‘That’s a wonderful monarch butterfly.’ I’m a little girl, I’m five years old and look what I get to see for the first time.

[00:07:51] Maya Lazaro: My name is Maya Lazaro. When my husband and I moved to Bethel from the Amazon neighborhood last June, we wanted to get to know our new community. One of our first outings here took us to Golden Gardens Park.

[00:08:01] We enjoy hiking and taking nature walks together, like many Eugenians, and were excited to learn that Bethel had its own wildlife habitat just a five-minute drive from our home. Hardly 10 minutes into our walk, we were delighted to spot multiple western pond turtles. The park also revealed a heron, numerous species of ducks, geese, and evidence of owls.

[00:08:20] Along the way, we encountered friendly bicyclists, bird watchers, and fellow walkers who graciously shared the path. Notably, we didn’t see any trash or human refuse. It was evident that people really cared about this place. In that moment, we knew that Golden Gardens was special, not just to Bethel and the larger Eugene community, but also to the native animal and plant species that call the park home.

[00:08:40] The proposal to turn a portion of Golden Gardens Park into an outdoor sports complex must be balanced with the right to a healthy environment. That right belongs to all our neighbors, human and animals alike, with whom we share our community. The introduction of artificial turf to Golden Gardens threatens protected species like the western pond turtle.

[00:08:58] I implore the City Council to reject the use of artificial turf in the proposed sports complex and to establish a 500-foot buffer to safeguard wildlife, a viewpoint supported by Beyond Toxics. We cannot compromise the health of our vibrant natural areas when reasonable alternatives exist. Wildlife spotting is a valid form of recreation, too, and a major draw to the park.

[00:09:20] I hope you’ll consider the long-term health of Golden Gardens as a recreation site by protecting the wildlife that makes it such a wonderful place to visit.

[00:09:27] John Q: 375 signatures are delivered to the city council, as Bethel residents join Beyond Toxics in saying: No more microplastics. At noon Wednesday, the council will discuss a potential bond measure for a new Emeralds stadium, a pickleball complex, and sports fields at Golden Gardens.

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