SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — Between the rolling hills and tall trees, Willamalane plans on building a trail system in the Thurston Hills. “The hills natural area is made up of 665 acres, three separate parcels that we were able to acquire. There’s a wide variety of landscapes from mature Douglas Fir forest to the Oak Savannah and other prairies that you can see behind me,” said Bob Keefer, Willamalane superintendent.
This comes after Willamalane bought nearly 700 acres of land in the Thurston Hills, something the parks and recreation department said it’s been working on for years. “I did my internship at Willamalane in 1976 and 1978 and I walked some of these hills as we were envisioning what would happen clear back then,” said Keefer.
Now as officials break ground to start the improvements on the land, local leaders said they’re excited to see Springfield putting itself on the map for outdoor recreation.
“Portland has the Forest Park, you know Eugene’s doing the Ridgeline how about Springfield? We can put ourselves on the map as one of the big three in the state of Oregon that within an urban area, an urban growth boundary have designated an incredible area for conservation and recreation,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio.
With lots of work ahead, including assessing the natural area and coming up with a master plan for the future of the hills, project leaders said they can’t help but be excited for the destination they think this land will become.
“It’s also an area that we’re gonna be able to preserve. This view, this beautiful landscape for generations to come here in Springfield when you come from the west heading east you’re going to see this. When you come from the east heading west, you’re going to see it. When you come from the north, south this is going to be at the center of Springfield,” said Keefer.