On June 19, 2005 (Father's Day), cousins Nick Davis, 13, and Britton Shepherd-Davis, 15, went swimming in a gravel pond in west Eugene, Oregon where a quarry used to be. It was their last swim, as they both tragically drowned. Seventeen-year-old Johnny Emory in 1994 and 12-year-old Ryan Lambert in 2000 also died in these quarry ponds, although the count may have been greater.
The deaths of these children spurred the local community to take action. Eugene voters passed a bond measure in 2006 allocating $2 million to making this place safer and a benefit to the city. Then the work began to transform the land into a welcoming and safe nature area.
Today, the park in the Bethel neighborhood of far west Eugene is little known and infrequently visited outside of the local neighborhoods. Yet it's a peaceful place to traverse the three quarry ponds and observe the pond turtles, ducks, egrets, and blue herons that stop by. In the late fall and winter the skies are filled with wave upon wave of Canadian geese soaring above and honking as they pass by.
Local residents walk around the ponds or take their dogs for some daily exercise. Fishermen attempt to lure some fish to their bait. Hawks perch in nearby trees to search for prey in the nearby fields. An occasional buzz from planes landing at the nearby Eugene Airport interrupts the peaceful pastoral scene.
What was once a dredging operation to provide stones and gravel to construct the nearby Beltline Highway is now peaceful parkland reclaimed by nature.