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The crown of Springfield, Oregon, is its public park system. Each park is a jewel waiting to be discovered and explored. Our favorite Springfield park is Ruff Park, formally known as Wallace M Ruff Jr Memorial Park. Spoiler alert: it’s not a dog park!
Ruff Park: the beginning
Managed by Willamalane Parks & Recreation District, Ruff Park is a 10-acre magnolia arboretum. Its ambitious beginning dates to the 1970s. Wally Ruff, a local high school student, purchased the land to start his own business. The enterprising young man grew flowers on the property and sold the flowers to pay off the land. After high school, he studied landscape design at the University of Oregon and went on to become a landscape contractor.
When Wally was 35, he went on vacation in Mexico where he tragically died. As a way to honor his death, his father, Wallace Ruff Sr, later donated the land to Willamalane to become a magnolia arboretum. Even after the elder Ruff’s death in 1999, the Friends of Ruff Park continued his dream by planting, weeding, and maintaining over 400 magnolia trees alongside other ornamental trees, shrubs, and flowers.
Ruff Park: today
Our family first discovered Ruff Park around 2010. At that time, it was a pocket park tucked behind a neighborhood without any drive-up access. There were about 4 parking spaces at the road, then you entered the gate and walked down a long path to the park.
In 2015, Willamalane upgraded the park, adding a paved road to a lovely parking area with plenty of parking. They installed a vault toilet and paved the entire walking path, making the park accessible for everyone.
Today, Ruff Park features a 0.4 mile walking path, 400 magnolia trees, and countless other trees and flowers. Small groves of trees dotted about the park surround a wide grassy open area. Benches are sprinkled throughout, and picnic tables line the north edge of the park. Cedar Creek follows the park’s northern and eastern edges, but it’s most easily seen on the northwestern side, near the parking area, where a quaint wood bridge carries pedestrians over the creek. The creek flows briskly during the winter but is most often dry in the summer.
Visiting Ruff Park
When we turn off the lane to the park, and drive through the gates, for us it’s like entering a paradise. Trees and shrubs line the drive. During the spring and summer, color abounds alongside the road. After parking, cross the bridge. It’s like passing through a brilliant green grotto as the park spreads out before us.
Choose the left or the right…either way, you can’t lose! The paved path is a 0.4 mile loop. It’s smooth enough to accommodate strollers and wheelchairs, making it a great destination any time of the year. It’s especially nice in the winter as the path is never muddy.
Right away, you’ll notice cement markers in each of the garden beds. These are imprinted with the bed’s number and a whimsical design. Keep your eyes open: you might just find a painted rock!
Picnicking at Ruff Park
Feel free to bring in a picnic or grab some Taco Bell on the way over. Ruff Park has abundant picnic tables throughout the park. Some are tucked into niches behind garden beds, so be sure to explore a bit for the perfect picnic spot!
Seasons in Ruff Park
We visit Ruff Park often and we’ve seen it in every season except perhaps snow. It’s lovely any time of the year and you’ll always find color if you’re looking for it!
During the spring and summer, Ruff Park fills with colorful flowers and shrubs. Delicate greens and blossoms of purple and pink carpet the ground underneath the trees.
Magnolias at Ruff Park
There are over 400 magnolia trees from 100 different varieties. They bloom throughout the spring and summer with blossoms big and small. Some are deeply fragrant, leading me to sniff a dozen trees to find the enchanting aroma wafting over the park. Others have gigantic blossoms, bigger than my head!
Scientists believe that magnolias are Earth’s oldest flowering plants. Fossilized magnolia blossoms date back to the age of dinosaurs 100 million years ago. While they used to grow worldwide, now magnolias are native to just a few parts of the world, including the southeastern United States.
My favorite grove at Ruff Park
In our family, we each have a favorite place at Ruff Park. Mine is the eucalyptus grove on the south side of the loop. When you get there, you’ll know! The scent wafts through the air, especially on hot days. I always slow down so that I can breathe it all in–literally!
If you go, and I hope that you do, have FUN! Take a Frisbee or a kite!
Parking Fee: None
Restroom: an accessible vault toilet is available at the parking lot
Parking: Room for 20+ cars off of 66th Street
Address: 1161 66th St., Springfield, OR 97478