Staycation campers stick to woods in local park

EUGENE — Ten tents littered the lawn of Sladden Park by dinner time during the second of three in-town camp-outs hosted by Eugene Parks and Recreation.

For a mere $5 per person, the city invited locals to get away close to home in the spirit of economically savvy "stay-cations."

The campers brought their own tents and sleeping bags, the city provided meals, recreation and entertainment.

One activity, tree-climbing — complete with ropes, harnesses and trained belayers — reigned as the most popular.

Leni Ament's disembodied voice carried down to spectators who shouted encouragement from below as she rested at the top of the highest rope in the park.

Leni, 11, joined her family and a number of neighborhood friends in the one-night camping trip in the park across the street from their homes in the Whiteaker neighborhood.

When she finally made her descent, she did so slowly.

"You want to keep coming down?" her belayer, Eugene Parks and Recreation staff member Nathaniel Mitchell, gently prodded while she was suspended about halfway to the ground.

"No, I'm good," she replied.

"Don't worry," he said. "I got you and the knot's got you, so there are two of us that have got you."

Then, in a single, fluid motion, the girl floated to the ground and exclaimed, "I feel so light!"

"It was a good view," she said, her feet planted firmly back on the ground. "Everybody looked really small. It was sort of scary looking down from the very top."

Jennifer and Toby Barwood biked the one mile from their home with their two children, ages 6 and 8, and Jennifer Barwood's parents, to camp out beneath the canopy of tall trees at Sladden Park.

As Jennifer Barwood's mother, Dolores Schoelen, made her ascent to the treetop, her granddaughter yelled from the family's campsite, "Good job, Grandma!" The Barwoods agreed the event was a great fit for their whole family.

"It's a nice family activity," Jennifer Barwood said. "And it's an easy way to go camping. Someone else is arranging the entertainment, someone else is lighting the fire pit. We just have to find the sticks to roast marshmallows."

Katie Guske and her 10-month-old grandson, Henry, watched Guske's tree-climbing neighbors dangle, seemingly from the sky.

Guske, who has lived in her home about a block from the park for 40 years, said she often brings her grandson there, where it's always cooler beneath the trees.

Guske wasn't planning on camping, but, she said, "We might have to come back later for the campfire."

The agenda for the rest of the evening included African drumming and fire dancing.

In the morning, campers indulged in some yoga before breakfast and then rafted down the Willamette River. A final camp-out in the city's series will take place Aug. 22 at Peterson Park Barn.

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