A Visit to Eugene: Scouting the Terrain for 2020
At the end of June, Executive Director Lora Bristow and I made a site visit to Eugene to scout out our meeting hotel and the surrounding area in preparation for our spring 2020 meeting. I had never been to Eugene before, but I had heard about how beautiful and vibrant it is from many colleagues, including plenty of alums of the University of Oregon. I can say that it didn’t disappoint!
Getting there was easy; I flew to Eugene on a direct nonstop flight from Los Angeles. The Eugene airport is compact and easy to navigate (the polar opposite of my experience at LAX). A free half hour shuttle ride right to our hotel put me in my room just an hour after touching down. I’ll add: for those who can’t get direct flights to Eugene, an easy alternative is to fly into Portland, which is less than two hours up the road. Renting a car might be an easy option, especially since we’ll have free parking at our hotel in Eugene. And Lora is working on securing efficient and inexpensive shuttle service from PDX to our hotel for our meeting. She’ll be posting that information soon.
The hotel itself is just finishing a thorough remodel since being purchased and rebranded as the Graduate Hotel. It is part of a unique chain that locates in college towns, and seeks to tap into the spirit of the local university. In our case, you’ll see plenty of ducks around in honor of the U of O, as well as lots of Nike paraphernalia. For the most part, we’ll have the hotel to ourselves. The meeting areas are all adjacent to the lobby, so you’ll find it very easy to get from session to session with no confusing navigation. Our favorite part of the meeting space is a large open ballroom on the top (12th) floor, with windows on all sides offering impressive views of the city. It will be an inspiring site for receptions and other events.
And the views in Eugene are gorgeous! Any direction you look, you see hills and buttes that are lush and covered with evergreens. If you want to spend some time enjoying that natural beauty, you have plenty of options – from day trips (to mountain waterfalls or to coastal seascapes) to short hikes or bike outings right from the hotel. A five-minute bicycle ride will put you on a system of biking paths along the Willamette River that goes on for miles. Or you can walk out the front door of the hotel and hike up Skinner Butte – a little over an hour roundtrip (or five-minute drive), takes you up a couple hundred feet for an amazing panoramic view of the city. Recent PSA president and U of O Emerita Patricia Gwartney gave me a tour to the top, where she pointed out all of the notable landmarks in the city – a wonderful way to get familiarized.
Beyond natural beauty, there is a lot to do and see within a six block radius from the hotel. Our program committee member in charge of local arrangements, Michelle Alexander, took us on a walking tour around the area, noting the many places of interest. Just a couple of blocks behind the hotel runs Broadway, the central axis of Eugene’s downtown. All along Broadway (and on the streets running to it) you can find plenty of small local eateries, coffee shops, and other businesses. You’ll find a wide variety of eating options – from burgers to vegan, and everything in between. Just a couple of blocks in the other direction is the Fifth Street Market – a multi-leveled boutique mall with more restaurants, including a food court (with a Thai restaurant where I had a great mango curry). Prices are very friendly, too – an advantage of being outside of the major metropolitan areas that we usually visit. And for those interested in making a pilgrimage to VooDoo Donuts (the famous Northwest institution), you’ll be happy to know that it’s (almost) close enough to make a donut run between sessions.
For those who want to explore a little further, you can walk a mile or so to the Whiteaker district – or, as the locals call it, “the Whit.” We got a tour from Michael Dreiling, Department Head for Sociology at the U of O, who pointed out lots of favorite local businesses. The Whietaker has been redeveloped in recent years and is anchored by a number of breweries (most notably Ninkasi), wineries, and distilleries. If you want to sip some great local beers, wines, and spirits, you’ll be well rewarded in the Whit. And, as you might imagine, there are lots of great restaurants.
On a final note, I was reminded during our visit of the relevance of our conference theme, “Democracy in a Divided Society.” At the time, Republican lawmakers (largely from eastern Oregon) had fled the state to deny a legislative quorum to take up a climate change bill that they saw as threatening to their (rural) way of life. (For those tempted to see this as a particularly Republican maneuver, recall that the Democrats did the same in Texas in 2003 to avoid a vote on redistricting.) The state capitol in Salem was forced to close down for a day in response to a threat from regional militias opposed to the bill. All of that is to underscore that Eugene is an ideal place for us to meet – not only because it presents so many opportunities to fuel up and wind down, but because Oregon is in the eye of the storm that will be the focus of our collective attention. — President Dennis J. Downey
Information on Eugene: https://www.eugenecascadescoast.org/regions-cities/eugene/
There are more direct flights to Eugene than you may think!
Airlines that fly to Eugene:
Direct flights by United: