Quantities of human waste mar lawn at downtown Eugene market site

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People defecating on the public Park Blocks in downtown Eugene, the site of the popular Saturday Market, has led the city to indefinitely cordon off two areas.

Piles of human feces have recently been found on a lawn and a landscaped area on the east Park Block, said Jeff Perry, the city's facilities director.

People also had urinated there, creating potential health hazards, he said.

In response, city employees put up orange plastic fencing around the lawn and through the landscaped area Thursday to prevent people from using it as a toilet.

"The immediate plan is to keep people out of those areas until they recover," Perry said Friday.

It's not unusual for city workers to find human excrement and urine in public places downtown, such as parking garages and the Park Blocks, Perry said.

But the amount left recently on the east Park Block appears to be unprecedented, he said.

"It's bad enough to the point that the smell is unpleasant from a distance," he said.

Saturday Market vendors notified city officials Aug. 17 after the market's clean up crew found nine piles of human excrement on the lawn, Perry said. "They were struggling with that," he said of Saturday Market workers. "They actually got it cleaned up. … We then experienced similar activity in the park during the week."

"It's regrettable," he said.

During the Saturday Market, the east Park Block is surrounded by market food booths, but people sit on it to eat, Saturday Market General Manager Beth Little said.

Urinating and defecating in public violates city code and is punishable by a fine of up to $500.

The city has three public restrooms, on the first floors of the city's three downtown parking garages, Perry said. Unless they are closed for repairs, the restrooms are open 24 hours a day, he said.

The ousting of transients from public land in west Eugene by the federal Bureau of Land Management and the city has changed the mix of homeless people who hang out downtown, including the Park Blocks, Little said.

Perry said some people think cleaning up human excrement is as easy as picking up after a dog. But human waste is more difficult and disgusting to remove, he said.

City employees "have been tremendous dealing with all of this stuff," Perry said, but they are "getting frustrated."