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hello there-i am probably not the best one to talk to, but i will give you my thoughts, and maybe someone else will post and tell me how wrong i am LOL we have only been here 6 years, so there could be a lot that i don't know.
we are in south eugene, and we love it-the other day a brand new fawn and its mama hung out in my yard for a while. there are tons of bike trails, and just down my street there is a hiking trail. my kids go to a charter school, don't know much about the public schools-i have heard not so great things about south eugene high school, and it is such a big school-we are checking out another charter school for high school, or we will homeschool. (my oldest is in 7th grade) i have heard that churchill high is nice, from a friend whose child goes there. it is smaller than south, they are having a good experience with the other children & teachers.
i have friends that live up river road, not quite in santa clara, though. i have heard it is a big family oriented neighborhood, a lot of churches.
as far as safety, methamphetimine (sp?) is a big problem here, (although no one seems to say anything about it) violent crime isn't high but property crime is. i guess it is a problem all over, now though. i went to a park in North Gilham, and things seem very sterile there, houses jammed together, lots of SUV's , etc. but i dont really know what you are looking for-
coming from LA traffic here will be a lot less (understatement I know) but there seems to be lots of traffic to me, up River Road/SantaClara/North Eugene. they are working on the freeway now too, so the traffic is bad in places it wouldn't normally be.
what kinds of schools are you looking for? what programs interest you/your children? we have a great charter/alternative school system, and you can send your child to any school within the 4J system. we are also former homeschoolers (and would do so again) and there are great groups for that too. is our local free paper, i think it is a good read for someone wanting to move to the area.
it is good that you will be able to visit, and get your own take-what one person loves another can't stand.
oh, and i hope you enjoy rain, because there is a lot of it here,

i don't know much about corvallis but they have a neat health food store LOL
and davinci days, they seem to have neat stuff up there too.
i love visiting portland, but it is waay to big for me LOL
now that i didn't answer anything you wanted to know-come on, someone else! hee hee
have a great time visiting!
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