SALEM — At the direction of Governor Kate Brown, and in keeping with the guidance that all Oregonians should stay home and stay healthy, the Oregon State Park system closed on Monday.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department previously ordered a campground closure that would have started April 3, and advised travelers to avoid day trips to full parks. With new guidance from the Governor, and clear signs that travelers are not following advice to avoid full parks, a statewide state park closure is necessary.
As of press time, beaches were still open, though they can be closed by OPRD officials at their discretion and will be closed if social distancing practices are not followed.
All daytime park services are closed statewide, including parking areas, picnic areas, natural areas, recreation sites, viewpoints and restrooms. Campers will be refunded for all canceled nights. All travelers are advised to follow the guidance to stay home to stay healthy.
City and county parks and other public land managers are open at their discretion, with the recommendation they do so only if they can adhere to social distancing practices. Coos County announced it was closing its parks late Monday afternoon.
There are a number of state parks in the Bandon and Port Orford areas, including Seven Devils State Recreation Site, Bullards Beach State Park, Bandon State Natural Area, Cape Blanco State Park, Port Orford Heads State Park and Humbug Mountain State Park.
“We would have preferred an orderly shutdown of the system and to remain open for daytime visits, but our concern for the effects on rural health care systems requires us to move up and expand our plans,” says Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. “We know this will cause a disruption, since we’re suspending service to everyone, even people who live near a park. Reducing contact between people is more important than recreation at the moment.”
“An essential part of operating a park relates to the health and safety of our staff, volunteers, and visitors like you,” Sumption added.
The closure will last at least until May 8. OPRD will reevaluate the situation at that time.
On the OPRD home web page, Sumption explained in more detail why OPRD does not see the closure as an overreaction.
“Hardest thing we've ever had to do,” She wrote. “We'd hoped people would protect themselves and, more importantly, others by limiting their travel just to short trips to places with space. That didn't happen, and we understand why ... people need to get out, and they need a little nature time to make this whole thing bearable.
“But you're more important to us than our mission. Our local neighbors near each park — many of them small, rural — need our support and understanding, but they and their health care systems and grocery stores don't need a few thousand extra people on their doorstep.”
Sumption advised people to go out if it’s important and take a walk around their neighborhoods, where it’s easier to avoid clumping up.
“We don't recommend you travel to any popular recreation hotspot. You might think, ‘Well, if everyone else stays home, that means I can go.’ No. That's not what that means.”