SEASIDE, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon is prized by outdoors enthusiasts around the world for its natural splendor. But just as the season changes and the weather warms up, beckoning us to explore coastal beaches, mountain forests and arid deserts—we find our intentions thwarted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Staying away from Oregon’s public lands is a difficult sacrifice to make but state officials say lives depend on it. Despite Gov. Kate Brown’s repeated calls for Oregonians to stay home as much as possible, scores of people are still trying to escape to places like the Columbia Gorge and the Oregon Coast.
Chris Havel, a spokesperson with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, told KOIN 6 News all parks and trail access points along the Historic Columbia River Highway are closed. But, despite the highway being closed east of Larch Mountain, Havel said visitors are still going past barricades and finding places to park.
“First, it’s a crime so you can be cited and the last thing anyone needs… is a fine to deal with or court cost to deal with or a tow to deal with,” he said.
Fines can range from a $100 to more than $1,000 in some cases.
“Violating the governor’s order and doing it intentionally—that’s a crime, that’s a misdemeanor,” Havel said.
Just as trails are difficult to restrict access to, so are Oregon’s beaches. Seaside Police Chief Dave Ham is urging out-of-towners to stay away from coastal communities. Ham said people have so far been complying with officers’ requests to leave the beach and no citations have been issued but the sunshine in the forecast may be too tempting for some.
“Good weather pattern that we are looking at coming up, there are clam tides coming up and people are going to want to come to the beach,” Ham said. “Again, in Seaside, it’s closed. So don’t come clamming here.”
Moral of the story? While many coastal communities welcome tourists under normal circumstances, these are not normal circumstances. The last thing these small towns need is potential exposure to the coronavirus by visitors desperate to escape the city.
“My message to everyone who is out and about is: stay home, save lives. Don’t come to the Seaside Beach—it’s closed at this point,” said Ham. “We are really trying to send the message that staying in your own community if you need to go out for a walk, go out for recreation do it in your own community.”
The City of Newport also issued a statement, urging the public to adhere to Brown’s “Stay Home” order and avoid the area. Parks and beaches in and around Newport are closed.
“Newport loves its visitors, and it is truly a difficult decision to tell guests to stay home, but for the protection of both residents and visitors – please stay home until the COVID-19 pandemic is history,” wrote Newport Mayor Dean Sawyer. “Visitors to the coast will be given Newport’s “Friendliest” welcome when the time is right – that is not now; not this weekend; and not until the Governor lifts Executive Order No. 20-12.”
For more information on closures in the Newport area, click here.
Stay home and save lives. Flatten the curve.
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