Tucked into the edge of Springfield, down an unassuming path, is the Wallace M. Ruff Jr. Memorial Park – a Magnolia demonstration garden which is quietly maturing along the banks of Cedar Creek.
Perhaps I should admit at the beginning of this blog post that I have a fondness for magnolia trees. I’ve always loved their large, bold flowers, especially those that bloom before the trees set leaves. I especially love the way the sun light shines through the thick petals. So it isn’t surprising that not long after I learned about the park from Roger Gossler (of Gossler Farms Nursery which sponsors the park) I found myself down there.
What I found was a 10 acre park full of a nice variety of magnolia trees in various stages of bloom. I found some old standards, as well as some intriguing new flowers I’ve not seen before (and which I am planning on going back to see again). The paths are paved and the trees are well identified. Benches are located throughout, and a grouping of picnic tables would be a great place to have lunch while the kids played in the grassy area. The first time I visited, the low cooing of mourning doves kept me company, the second time it was the gentle mooing of cows.
The property for the park was originally purchased by a young Wallace Ruff Jr. in the 1970s and he farmed flowers here. After his death in 1989, his father – Wallace Ruff, Sr. – designed the park as a memorial garden. The park is now owned by Willamalane Park and Recreation District and tended by a group of volunteers (the Friends of Ruff Park).
Perhaps interesting to note, magnolias first emerged millions of years ago, and are the oldest flowering plants. Though most magnolias bloom in the spring, some bloom into summer. I’m looking forward to visiting this park later in the season to see what trees are in bloom then.
Getting to Ruff Park:
The official address is 1161 66th St in Springfield. From Cottage Grove, take I-5 north to exit 194A and merge onto Hwy 105/126 heading into Springfield. After 5 ½ miles turn left (at the stop light) onto 52nd St. The road will take a sharp right (you’ll now be on Highbanks Road) and then another sharp right (you’ll now be on 58th St.). You will quickly come to a round-about. Take the 3rd exit and you’ll be on Thurston Road. From Thurston Road, turn left on 66th Street and right into the parking lot just after a small bridge.
[Updated April 5, 2016, to reflect the new paved pathways and nice new parking lot.]