PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Outdoor enthusiasts are getting to shake a bit of the COVID-19 cabin fever with a hike at state parks.
With social distancing top of mind, Oregon and Washington state park officials say most people followed the rules.
“People really stepped up and understood that in order to continue to enjoy the outdoors that we needed to do it in a way that was safe” said Anna Gill, spokesperson for Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
But Oregon park rangers did catch some people testing boundaries, trying to break in over barriers. They say this type of behavior doesn’t help — it only hurts.
“We’re really short staffed, so we really need people’s cooperation,” said Chris Havel of Oregon State Parks. “In some cases it’s the parks that are not ready and in other cases it’s the communities that are not ready — so we really need people to respect those local wishes.”
While dozens of parks open in Oregon and up to 100 parks open in Washington, officials said to expect the larger parks like Silver Falls, areas along the Columbia Gorge and the beach parks on the coast to remain closed for awhile in both states.
“But the rest of the Willamette and portions of the central valley all the way down to southern Oregon, even over the weekend, someone of those parks were able to swing open their gates,” said Havel.
People are encouraged to practice social distancing measures and wear masks when out in public spaces. Officials have also urged people to leave if any areas appears crowded. Public restrooms may be closed in some of the parks as well.
“We do strongly recommend that you wear a face covering of some sort when you’re out,” said Havel.
While supplies and restrooms are low, park staff say you have to come prepared.
“Water, hand sanitizer, everything that you would normally need because service is limited at parks, even the ones that have open gates.”
If hikers keep up the good work — there’s more good news to come.
“Our next step is camping,” said Gill. “We’re looking forward to Phase 2 coming where we can allow pepole to stay overnight again.”
Overnight camping at parks is currently closed at least through May 25.
The next parks to reopen will be chosen based on each community’s readiness to welcome visitors and how prepared each park is in terms of staff, supplies and equipment.
Unlike the handful of state parks and recreation areas that have now reopened, beaches at many coastal communities remain off limits — including those in Seaside.
Seaside city officials will be talking about potentially reopening beaches and trails again at their city council meeting on Monday. After closing for the weekend, Cannon Beach is expected to reopen Tuesday.
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