Mud City Press

THE LANE COUNTY COMMONS

Community Events and Agricultural Resource Center

A Proposal by the Lane County Fairgrounds Repair Project

The following set of webpages contains a conceptual design and implemenation plan to transform an aging county fairgrounds site in Eugene, Oregon into a state-of-the-art, zero waste, zero net energy community and agricultural resource center. Should this vision be realized, the Lane County Commons would become a one of a kind community asset, a gem in the crown of Oregon's greenest city, a destination for visitors from all over the United States, and a prototype for other urban fairground sites.

Lane County Events Center
Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene, Oregon (Aerial View)

Background: The Lane County Fairgrounds* covers fifty-five acres in the center of Eugene, Oregon. The site was first purchased in 1909 from Samantha A. Huddleston for ten dollars and in the following year hosted its first county fair. This location has now been the scene of rodeo events, 4-H exhibitions, logging conventions, home shows, holiday markets, and countless other community gatherings for three generations of Oregonians. The site continues to host the Lane County Fair and many other regular weekend events; however, revenue sources have not covered operation costs for several years and the fairgrounds has relied on County funds from the Federal Timber Subsidy to make it from one year to the next. Those funds were curtailed after the 2008 fiscal year. The Lane County Fairgrounds is currently operating at a loss and without a safety net. Moreover, the conditions of the grounds are in such a sad state that attracting convention business for the Events Center, the only building on the site that makes a profit, has become compromised. The future of this historic site is in jeopardy and has been for quite some time.

The Lane County Commissioners oversee operations of the fairgrounds. On March 12, 2008, the Commissioners convened a public meeting at the fairgrounds in an effort to answer the question: What should we do with the Lane County Fairgrounds? Two options were suggested by the commissioners that night. The first was to sell the property and build a new county fair facility on the outskirts of Eugene. This would cost an estimated $150 million and is an expense far too great for the County at this time. The second option was to spend an estimated $13.5 million for maintenance and repair of the site and see if operations couldn’t limp along until something better could be arranged. In these difficult financial times, even funding those maintenance costs would be difficult to justify and all repairs would have to be prioritized by absolute need and be done one by one as finances allowed. In other words, two options were offered and neither one was workable.

The Lane County Fairgrounds is in dire straits. Instead of simply letting the situation continue unresolved, it is time to go outside the box with something entirely new. This is essentially what the County Commissioners were asking from the 100 or so interested citizens who attended the March 12th meeting–"A vision for the next fifty or one hundred years," as Commissioner Fleenor described it that evening. This proposal by the Fairgrounds Repair Project is just that, a vision for the next 100 years–and a model for the conversion of other dated fairgrounds sites into working demonstrations of sustainable living.

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*The Lane County Fairgrounds is officially called the Lane County Events Center. Because there is a building at the site called "The Events Center," for the sake of clarity and ease, this proposal will refer to the site as either the Lane County Fairgrounds or simply the fairgrounds, which will mean the entire 55-acre site.

Note: The proposal presented on the following webpages is a working document. It is subject to additions, changes, and detailing on a regular basis and is also open for comments and suggestions.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary
The Lane County Commons will be a community resource and agricultural center designed to optimize the full potential of the site. The fifty-five acre campus will be networked into the city in such a way that it acts both as a transit node for LTD and a distribution hub for food grown in Lane County. The central economic premise of the site will be fostering local enterprise, incubating green jobs, and promoting Lane County agriculture, specifically food production. The overall operational goal for the site will be to achieve zero waste, zero net carbon, and zero net energy, and in this way be a working demonstration and educational model for the culture of the future.
Facility Assessment
The Lane County Fairgrounds needs in excess of ten million dollars of repairs and maintenance. In order to understand the extent of the changes that are necessary to make the site profitable, attractive, and sustainable, it is worthwhile to summarize the current physical and financial state of each building on the site.
Whole System Recycling
A unified waste and recycling system will be incorporated into all activities at the repaired fairgrounds. Everything that enters the fairgrounds site will either be recycled, composted into nutrient rich soil amendments, used as a source of energy production, or leave the site exactly as it entered.
Renewable and Alternative Energy Systems
Every action will be taken to increase the efficiency of all existing buildings and energy systems at the site. Photovoltaic panels, solar water heating, wind power, and other renewable or high efficiency energy technologies will be added to each structure as applicable
Ecological Landscapes
The entire campus will be landscaped in a manner that demonstrates the principles of ecology and permaculture design. The grounds will be transformed into a neighborhood park, a living native plant library, and an educational arboretum.
New and Remodeled Structures
Four new structures will be added to the fairgrounds site. Four of the existing buildings will undergo significant remodeling. The Events Center, the largest structure on the grounds, will be subject to only minor changes. This section describes the new buildings and the changes necessary for the existing buildings.
A Relocalized Food System
In this age of escalating freight costs, increasing concerns for food security, and on-going uncertainty about the economy, reinvigoration of local food systems and in some cases rebuilding local food system infrastructure is wise–if not an absolutely necessity. This is true for almost all communities throughout the United States and is the underlying long-term premise of the Lane County Fairgrounds Repair Project–relocalizing the regional food system.
Community Partners
It is clear that the Lane County budget is under considerable strain and that any effort to upgrade the Lane County Fairgrounds in the current economic climate must involve money and energy from others sources, such as federal grants or partnerships with like-minded private businesses or public organizations. Bringing together community partners of all kinds, public and private, large and small, is critical to meeting the funding challenges of converting an aging fairgrounds site into a state-of-the-art sustainable campus. Several partners and potential partners have already been indentified and have taken part in the evolution of this plan.
The Lane County Fair
The Lane County Fairgrounds has been the site of the county fair since 1910. It has a rich tradition of livestock exhibitions, 4-H projects, quilting exhibits, baking competitions, and a valuable bringing together of the rural and urban cultures of Lane County. The twenty-first century version of the county fair, however, represents but a shadow of that rich history, and the event itself, once a huge source of income for the fairgrounds, is no longer the money-maker it used to be. It is time to reevaluate what the county fair means and how its tradition can be used to address the future.
Building Costs
The repaired fairgrounds site will include four new structures, significant remodeling to four existing buildings, minimum changes to one building, and a complete landscape make-over. In terms of dollars and cents, this will be an expensive project. Funding for this work will be sourced from private donations, state and federal green job and technology grants, county and/or city bond initiatives, and community-wide partnerships.
National Destination Site
The Lane County Commons will be a one-of-a-kind, cutting edge, zero waste, zero net carbon, zero net energy prototype for sustainable applications and living. At this time, there is nothing in the world to compare to what it can be. It will attract regional and national attention for its applications, educational opportunities, and relocalized community economics. Along with the site's focus on economic stimulus for local enterprise and regional agriculture, the Lane County Commons will become a destination for visitors and a popular site for conventions, adding significantly to Eugene's green reputation and its tourism economy.