Eugene Parks and Open Space has been certified salmon-safe by the Oregon nonprofit Salmon-Safe, the nation’s first certification organization linking land management practices with the protection of water quality and imperiled native fish. Salmon-Safe promotes watershed conservation and preservation practices that help Pacific salmon thrive in west coast watersheds. The certification lasts for five years and includes annual verification by Salmon-Safe of progress by Eugene on certification commitments.
A park system is considered salmon-safe when its operational policies and maintenance practices impacting the aquatic ecosystem are assessed and any harmful impacts on water quality and fish habitat are minimized. Salmon-safe park systems also commit to meeting Salmon-Safe design standards related to stormwater management and construction-phase pollution prevention in future park development. As part of the process, Salmon-Safe certification includes comprehensive on-site visits by a team of expert scientists serving as assessors to ensure that certification standards are being met. As Salmon-Safe puts it: "Park and Natural Area Certification Standards constitute a set of best management practices that can be applied across a variety of landscapes from natural areas to parks to sports fields."
In Eugene, Chinook salmon migrate through the heart of the city in the Willamette River. Adults migrate upstream on their way to spawn, and juveniles migrate downstream on their way to the ocean. Along the way, young salmon use places like Delta Ponds and Heron Slough on the west bank of the Willamette. Amazon Creek in south and west Eugene is also important. While there are not salmon in Amazon Creek, it does ultimately flow into the Long Tom River and the Willamette River, therefore ensuring its waters are healthy for aquatic life and fish is vital.
A few reasons why Eugene parks and natural areas are considered salmon-safe:
- Staff and volunteers have worked hard to plant trees and other native vegetation along waterways and streets, which keeps water cool, filters water before it enters waterways and rivers, and stabilizes banks to reduce erosion.
- Any pesticides or fertilizers used are applied thoughtfully with an eye towards reducing or eliminating run-off in local waterways and curbside storm drains.
- Management of local waterways balances habitat and water quality with flood control and conveyance.
- Parks are being designed and renovated in a way that requires less water, fertilizer and pesticide use for long-term maintenance.
- Development and implementation of a pioneering pesticide-free park program that is seeking to expand.
- All new parks since 2008 have incorporated specially-designed areas called stormwater facilities that serve to clean rainwater before it enters waterways.
Salmon-Safe’s independent science team’s final report stated: "The City of Eugene’s management of the Eugene park system serves as an outstanding example of exemplary management of an urban public recreation and natural area resource. The organization’s management and park maintenance staff understand, support, and implement a stewardship vision for the lands under their care." And: "Pesticide use within Eugene’s well-established Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program is minimal and well-justified. Pest management decisions and methodology are based on sound scientific information. The Eugene program will serve as a model for others that IPM is practical and effective as well as ecologically responsible.”