Thurston Hills Natural Area nationally recognized for public-private partnerships

Coalition for Recreational Trails honored Willamalane at Oct. 22 event

Willamalane Park and Recreation District received a Tom Petri Recreational Trails Program Annual Achievement Award, recognizing outstanding use of recreational Trails Program funds nationwide. 

The Coalition for Recreational Trails presented the award at a virtual ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 22 with participation by award recipients and key trails champions, including members of Congress. Thurston Hills Natural Area was recognized, receiving the Public-Private Partnerships and Access to/Use of Public Lands award for its community partnerships while developing multi-use recreational trails.

“This project is a testament to what the community is capable of,” said Fraser MacDonald, Natural Resources Planner at Willamalane. More than 10 years ago, Rivers to Ridges included Thurston Hills Natural Area in its vision for a regional connected trail system for hikers, mountain bikers, and nature lovers. Beginning in 2017, Willamalane and the Disciples of Dirt mountain bike club partnered to develop the hiking and mountain biking trails. The Bureau of Land Management also collaborated to extend the trail system into their adjacent property. 

“The local mountain bike community has been advocating for decades to have mountain bike trails in the Eugene-Springfield metro area, and Thurston Hills is that place,” said Peter O’Toole, Trail Work Coordinator at Disciples of Dirt. The club contributed about 2,400 labor hours from 150 volunteers. They also raised and donated $26,000 in funds toward the completion of the project.

Representative Peter DeFazio, Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and supporter of Thurston Hills Natural Area, recorded a video to congratulate Willamalane at the award ceremony. “[The award] recognizes how incredible you are and how you can work with the diverse groups in the community and provide for us for a better recreational outdoor future for all Springfielders,” DeFazio said.

Details on the honored projects and programs as well as a link to viewing the awards ceremony are available at A video on Thurston HIlls Natural Area and the collaboration with community partners is available here.