It’s official – and has been for two years – Eugene is the third largest metropolitan area in Oregon, not the second.
Results from a study conducted by Portland State University’s Population Research Center show that as of July 1, 2005, the population of the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area was 336,085.
Salem’s population was estimated at 367,805. This puts Salem firmly in second place in the running for the title of Oregon’s largest metropolitan area.
Nevertheless, Eugene has long held the reputation as the second-largest city in Oregon and many University Web sites still cite it as truth.
The “Frequently Asked Questions” section of the Office of International Programs’ Web site informs potential international
students that “Eugene is the second largest city in Oregon.”
In a news release for the 10th Anniversary Tailgate Auction, the
UO Alumni Association describes the Eugene-Springfield region as “part of Oregon’s second-largest metropolitan area.”
Still, most University officials said that these references are just
outdated, not intentionally misleading, and that the University
is well aware of Eugene’s slip in city rank.
“Some of that stuff doesn’t get updated as regularly. We’re mostly concerned about updating dates and other important
stuff,” said Cora Bennett, director of student orientation programs. “When the news came out, we changed our information.
“We tell (potential freshmen) that we’re the third-largest, that
we’re just behind Salem by under a thousand people.”
Bennett added that incoming freshmen are not usually very
concerned with how Eugene ranks in relation to the other
cities in Oregon. She said what the orientation staff tries to do
when asked about the city, is to present Eugene as a vibrant,
“We tell people that there’s a fantastic music scene, a great
community, lots of outdoor stuff, things like that,” Bennett said.
“It’s not a big city but it’s not a small town either.”
Martha Pitts, the director of admissions at the University said that there has been no big change in the way the school markets itself.
“We’re not talking about tens of thousands, it’s a small difference,” Pitts said. “Where we’re located is an important part
of the institution because it’s about the things that students
can do in Eugene.”
Pitt said the University’s current publications no longer say that Eugene is ranked No. 2. University materials mostly just list the size of thetown’s population.
City officials are also aware of the change.
“The fact that we’re second and Salem is third in population has gone back and forth a couple of times,” Jan Bohman, the community relations officer for the City of Eugene, said. “I think we’ve been so close for a long time it doesn’t matter.
“But we’re both different cities, we’re going to keep trying to be the number one greenest city and we’re gonna keep doing what we do to keep up on what we’re doing well.”
The response within the Eugene community has been mixed. Some don’t know what the population is and don’t really care,
while others say they have always been aware of Eugene’s No. 3 status.
Kerri Vanden Berg, 34, guessed correctly that Eugene is now No. 3 and not No. 2..
“I’ve always considered Salem bigger because it’s our capitol, Vanden Berg said, “Eugene is also growing, but I would love to see our outdoors area preserved for farmland, and I would like to see this supported by the city.”
Natalie Allen, 25, estimated Eugene’s population to be about 90,000. (It’s actually 146,160). But despite the miscalculation,
she too guessed the correct rank.
There are still citizens who never got the memo.
“I think Eugene is No. 2. When I researched Eugene before I moved here about three years ago, that’s what I found out,” said Britta Spann, a University graduate student.
The mayor of Salem, Janet Taylor, said Salem has been
touting its new status as the second-largest city in Oregon
for about two years now.
“It was declared two years ago. For years now, we’ve been considered very close. But we’re just growing so much faster,” Taylor said. “Being the state capitol keeps our employment pretty constant, our housing prices are very competitive and we’re doing things to attract people. We’ve become a vibrant urban area while maintaining the special character of all our neighborhoods.”