Stroll or ride along the many trails Corvallis has to offer, sit and read your book in a quiet park, or play with your kids among lupine and oak trees and you are enjoying someone’s legacy. Many of Corvallis’ local parks and greenways were established in honor of those who significantly impacted the community. Simply walking through the forest and watching the seasons change from a grassy hillside can keep the memory of a deceased Corvallisite alive.
Driving into Corvallis on Highway 34, there is one such reminder tiny though it may be. Kermit E. Roth Park is perhaps Corvallis・smallest park at under half an acre, but to Jean Starker Roth it means the world.
She and Kermit had been married for 31 years when he died from a heart attack. His work in the community with Good Samaritan Hospital and the Rotary and his love for the outdoors may have inspired his wife’s efforts. But her desire to see the park in place was also pragmatic. She wanted a nice place that would welcome people to the city.
She eyed the open space and said, “I think a park outta go there.”
She worked with the Chamber of Commerce and a volunteer group to keep the area an open oasis right in the city. Her favorite part of the park may be the two fountains that welcome passers-by during the hot summers.
I went by there one day and a guy was washing his socks in the fountain water,・she recalled. She knew if her late husband saw that he would just laugh.
The conservation streak runs in her family. Her father, T.J. Starker, was instrumental in establishing Avery Park. A bench there commemorates his contribution to the project.
We try to be a part of what’s going on in the community that would benefit everyone and make it more enjoyable for everyone who lives here,・she said. I’m still doing it at 93!
The year that Kermit died, Charles Ross was considering how parks could play a role in Corvallis・future. He hoped that with conservation efforts, each person would still be able to rest his eyes upon a natural scene, and to refresh his spirit, and be reminded that life is good.”
It’s fitting, then, that two of the best places to take in a view of Corvallis are from parks that the Ross family helped to establish.
Chip Ross Park was dedicated to the Ross筑s young son who died of cystic fibrosis at age 16. After their son’s death, the family visited England where Charles Ross was impressed with English greenbelts. People in towns and cities had access to open space it was healthy and attractive. So he and his wife worked to make that dream a reality here in Corvallis, and honor their son with their efforts.
It is really an honor to have that and keeps my brother’s memory alive,・Nancy Ross Hathaway said. I think it’s inspirational for a lot of people.
Each of the 125 acres at Chip Ross Park stands as a memorial to the Ross’s commitment and love for their son.
We live in a community that supports public services and public involvement. One persons efforts spread out like a ripple in a pond,・Hathaway added.
According to the Fitton Green Management Plan, Chip Ross worried about losing the region’s natural beauty.
Our family loves this city, and its incomparable green setting. The undeveloped country that still remains around it is the glory of Corvallis: the handsome hills and gentle meadows, the old oaks, the tangled wetlands near rivers and streams, the alternately smooth and rolling fields.・
Sitting atop the world at Fitton Green Natural Area, the surrounding towns become simplified and quaint. Tiny houses and farms are nestled next to the train tracks, which from this vantage look like Lionel O-scale instead of giant diesels. A grid of green and yellow stretches to the Coastal Range where the land begins to rise and meet low-hanging clouds.
It is a perfect place to watch the world, and a perfect tribute to Elsie Fitton Ross for whom the park is named.
Fitton Green was a prototype for conservation parks in Corvallis. Chip and his wife Elsie created the Greens Trust Fund endowment in 1988 to ensure that Corvallis and Philomath would remain livable and beautiful.
Their endowment secured the first purchase of Fitton Green: 85 acres that eventually would grow to more than 300. Their decision also led to the formation of the Greenbelt Land Trust, enabling more conservation purchases around Benton County.
Fitton Green has most things city dwellers desire in a park. It is close to town but feels like another world once on the trails. It provides striking vistas of the valley and surrounding mountains, along with beautiful macros of flowers, mosses, and gnarled oaks. Birds are abundant and kids can run wild.
Walking through the park takes a visitor through many different habitats, including native grassland, lovely and increasingly rare in the Pacific Northwest.
One trail in particular offers a picturesque view of our corner of the world.
The Allen Throop Loop Trail is eponymously named for the local open-space advocate who also served as Greenbelt Land Trust president for four years, helping to guide the Open Space Plan.
Throop was an adventurer who roamed Fitton Green before there were trails. He advocated for trails not just for those who were willing to bushwhack and ford creeks, but also for those with different abilities. The trails he inspired at Fitton Green and the ones that bear his name are gentle and meandering, accessible for children or those who need something short but still deserve million dollar views.
Eventually, Throop developed ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and died in 2004 as the Land Trust was building trails. He knew that the economic vitality of a town often depends on its natural health and the accessibility of natural areas to its citizens.
The plaque in his honor reads, “A constant explorer, Allen treasured the land and eagerly shared his discoveries of its wonders. His enthusiasm was contagious.”
On any given day, families, couples, singles, and groups tromp along the trails that Throop inspired in the park that the Ross’s helped to materialize in honor of their son.
As you walk through Corvallis, take note of the many benches, fountains, rose bushes, or signs with the name of a lost loved one. It speaks to local pride and love of land and life.
This legacy is more than just names on plaques. These lives inspired others to contribute to the mental and physical health of all of us who walk away our troubles and are able to put our own lives in perspective sitting in the shade of a tree above our bustling little town. It’s something to be proud of.
As Jean Roth said, “I’m proud of Corvallis and I am proud of our parks.”
Story and photos by Bridget Egan