PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A survey conducted by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center shows that the majority of Oregonians feel safe spending time in the state’s natural areas, yet a number of residents say they’re particularly fearful of the areas with a dense homeless population.
OVBC conducted the survey from Nov. 10 to Nov. 19, 2022. More than 1,500 Oregonians over the age of 18 participated in the online questionnaire, which asked questions about wildfire risks and the source of drinking water as well.
When asked if they felt safe in parks near their neighborhood, 77% of respondents said they felt ‘very safe’ or ‘somewhat safe.’ About 17% answered that they felt ‘very unsafe’ or ‘somewhat unsafe.’
There were similar responses when people were asked how safe they felt in local nature preserves. Seventy-nine percent of Oregonians said ‘yes’ or ‘somewhat’, while 12% felt the opposite way.
Some respondents went on to further explain their answers. A Clatsop County resident over the age of 75 said she generally feels safe in natural areas, although her ‘balance problems’ make her feel less safe than before.
“Also, the increased number of guns out there makes me very nervous,” she added. “I never used to consider getting shot, unless it was hunting season, in which case I did not and don’t wander off into the woods. Now there are many desperate homeless people camped out, and often drugged out, in remote spots. I no longer feel like wandering in the woods alone.”
According to some additional responses that OVBC shared, other Oregonians expressed the same feelings of unsafety in their answers.
One Bend resident said that the city’s open spaces were being ‘taken over by the homeless,’ and a Washington County respondent said that her fear of natural parks was more related to homelessness and crime than it was to potential fires.
The survey also found that Oregon residents in urban neighborhoods feel less safe than their counterparts in suburban and rural towns.