BY EMILIE OSTERKAMP
EUGENE – Through thick and thin, the Jefferson/Westside neighborhood (JWN) nestled in the heart of Eugene seems to have managed to grasp the meaning community.
In true Oregon fashion, chilling rain, falling just hard enough to dampen one’s hair wasn’t enough to keep residents of the Jefferson/Westside neighborhood indoors on Sunday afternoon. Instead the inner streets were filled with people walking dogs, riding bikes and conversing at intersections. The neighborhood that is all too often referred to as “bad news” appeared to be nothing short of a welcoming community. We asked residents¬¬ what their notorious neighborhood is really like with in its boundaries and their responses were just as welcoming as their attitudes – for the most part.
Terri Wood, who has lived the JWN for 25 years, was more than willing to give us an insight to the area she calls home – as long as we were willing to keep pace with her and her Border Collie. As we walked from Monroe Park to the Frontier Market, she explained her contentment; “you have everything from hippies to young people here, it’s a nice mix. I know a lot of young couples that have moved in, you know when the housing market collapsed and the prices went down so they were able to get loans, it’s really nice.” Even her criticism seemed to be miniscule, when asked what she would change about the area she instantly said “the sidewalks!” followed by a series of chuckles, explaining that the one we were walking on (which wasn’t so flat) was the nicest.
Her outlook was shared by Tatanka Meker, a clerk at Frontier Market who has lived in the JWN for three years. “There’s a lot of families, and then like a mixture of people like my age, but everybody seems to kind of just look out for each other and hangout…we definitely rely more one, I feel like, each other than the city.” Just like Wood, Merker’s criticism was far from harsh. Although she did mention the great deal of chronic homelessness with in the neighborhood’s boundaries her negative was canceled with a positive in relation to room for improvement; “they’re doing a lot of work on the trees right now. They’re planting new ones in the beginning of February and taking down a lot of the ones that are diseased or like having issues like that. The tree guy from the city is amazing. He rides around on his bicycle with his little list of paper and comes and talks to everybody and lets you pick out what kind of tree you want!”
While the resident’s positive and welcoming responses seemed to be in sync, those who do not actually live in the area, but only work there, didn’t carry such a bright outlook. Ted Angelo, an employee at McKenzie Rive Music, said “we’re kind of on the outside of everything. I don’t know. Myself, I’m not a gigantic fan of the area. As far as what’s here, there’s really nothing. We’re kind of in a black hole. There’s a lot of traffic on West 11th, and you also get a lot of foot traffic.”