Last Occupy Eugene camper leaves city park

Last Occupy Eugene camper leaves city park
Occupy Eugene campsite on Christmas Eve. Photo by Dan Morrison/Oregon NewsLab

EUGENE, Ore. - The last Occupy Eugene campers agreed to leave Washington-Jefferson Park on Tuesday, allowing the City to switch gears and begin restoring the site.

"The occupation of the park has been peacefully resolved, achieving one of the main goals of the City's response, the City of Eugene said in a press release. "Occupy Eugene members have done an excellent job of clearing out the camp. They asked for and received permission to continue cleaning up the site during daytime hours through Wednesday afternoon."

City officials have not yet fully assessed the condition of the park and determined what needs to be done to restore the area.

The peaceful dismantling of the camp comes a week after the City Council voted to end the camping ban exemption that allowed the camp to remain in place. The Council held a special meeting after a man was seriously injured in a fight at the camp. He later died from his injuries.

Occupy Eugene held a candlelight vigil for the man.

The Occupy campers started to break down the camp, and the chief of police said his department would work "collectively" to dismantle the camp.

Security lighting that went on around the camp from dusk until dawn are gone, but the fence surrounding the park will remain in place to protect the damaged soil, the city said.

Here is the full text of the City of Eugene press release

The last of the Occupy Eugene campers today agreed to leave Washington-Jefferson Park.  The occupation of the park has been peacefully resolved, achieving one of the main goals of the City's response.

Park site restoration

Occupy Eugene members have done an excellent job of clearing out the camp. They asked for and received permission to continue cleaning up the site during daytime hours through Wednesday afternoon.

When the site is completely vacated and the initial cleanup has been completed by Occupy Eugene working cooperatively with City staff, Public Works will be able to fully assess the condition of the park and determine what remains to be done and what options there are for accomplishing the restoration of the park and the surrounding area for general public use.

With the end of the encampment, the security lighting was removed from the site today. A hazmat contractor went through the site and removed obvious and potential hazards such as hypodermic needles and containers with unidentified liquids in them. City staff continues to work cooperatively with Occupy Eugene to remove debris and salvageable items from the site. Trash is placed in dumpsters, which are emptied regularly. Once the initial cleanup has been completed and the dumpsters are removed - probably by the end of this week - the City will reopen Jefferson Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues.

The fence surrounding the perimeter of the park bounded by Washington, Sixth, Jefferson and Seventh will remain in place for the foreseeable future. This will protect the damaged soils from further degradation and keep people and pets out of the mud until the restoration is completed.

Public Works will continue to assess what needs to be done to restore the park area to its pre-encampment condition. Based on preliminary observations by parks staff, the soils in the lawn area have been compacted and will need to be aerated using turf equipment. The winter is not a good time to aerate soil or plant grass seed, so the park will remain closed, most likely until spring or early summer brings warmer and drier weather.

Until the park cleanup and a full assessment of the restoration needs have been completed, City staff won't know what volunteer/donation opportunities will exist.  For now, if people would like to volunteer or donate, call the Parks and Open Space main number at 541-682-4800 during normal business hours. A staff person will take names and areas of interest and/or resources. Once staff knows what the needs are, City staff will contact those people with additional information.

Human Services

The area's social service agencies worked very hard in conjunction with the City to help provide supplemental transition services during a busy time of year and when they are all facing severe resource challenges. The City has been grateful to work with agencies including St. Vincent de Paul, Food for Lane County, Whitebird, Looking Glass and Community Action of Lane County to provide additional transition services including short term shelter, extra meals, referral services, and expanded youth services.  These helped greatly to ease the transition of homeless people and others at the Occupy Eugene site.

The City of Eugene is focusing on incrementally expanding the parking lot camping program with St. Vincent de Paul. As always, those who need a site should contact St. Vincent de Paul to register for the program and determine what is available.

The City is working with Looking Glass, which is connecting with youth to provide various services. The agency has stepped up really quickly to expand its work.

The Egan Warming Center is back to normal operations: open on cold nights in the available locations with specially trained volunteers. The City is not anticipating the reopening of the Wheeler Pavilion. The Egan organizers heroically pulled together last Friday night shelter to help meet immediate needs post-encampment.

The City will continue to work with these outstanding local social service agencies and other agencies and community members on mid- and longer term plans to address housing and shelter issues as a part of the Mayor's task force.  Mayor Piercy is in the processing of appointing members to task force which will include City Councilors, human service agencies, neighborhood representatives, Occupy Eugene representatives and other community members.

The task force will meet for the first time on January 4 at noon at St. Mary's Catholic Church at 1062 Charnelton.