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, March 23, including both day-use areas and campgrounds.
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, parks officials determined a statewide state park closure is necessary. Beaches can be closed by OPRD at their discretion and will be closed if social distancing practices are not followed.
All daytime park services will be closed statewide at least through May 8, including parking areas, picnic areas, natural areas, recreation sites, viewpoints and restrooms. In the Reedsport area that includes the Bolon Island State Tidways just north of town, Umpqua River Lighthouse State Park with Lake Marie in Winchester Bay, the Umpqua State Scenic Cooridor along Highway 38 east of Reedsport, Tugman State Park with Eel Lake in Lakeside and Honeyman State Park with Woahink Lake south of Florence.
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. As of press time Monday, Douglas County, Coos County and Lane County all still were listing their county parks as open.
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area remained largely open, including its beaches and dunes accesses, though the U.S. Forest Service closed campgrounds including Sutton Lake and Baker Beach north of Florence, Spinreel south of Lakeside, and Horsfall Beach north of North Bend through at least April 14. The Forest Service also closed the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center north of Florence.
The state parks closure also includes the spring Whale Watch Week, which means no volunteers will be stationed at the regular sites, including Umpqua Lighthouse.
People can enjoy the live stream of the migration of the gray whales north to Alaska from cameras at Depoe Bay on the Oregon State Parks YouTube channel.
Other state parks, natural areas, scenic corridors and recreation sites along the South Coast include Golden and Silver Falls State Natural Area, Cape Arago State Park, Sunset Bay State Park, Shore Acres State Park, Coquille Myrtle Grove State Natural Area, Hoffman Memorial State Wayside, Seven Devils State Recreation Site, Bullards Beach State Park, Bandon State Natural Area, Cape Blanco State Park, Port Orford Heads State Park, Arizona Beach State Recreation Site, Geisel Monument State Heritage Site, Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor, Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint, Winchuck State Recreation Site, McVay Rock State Recreation Site and Harris Beach 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,” said 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.”
OPRD has changed its policy for March 13-April 2 to now include a refund for all site rental fees, even if the reservation is canceled the same day as expected arrival. The $8 online reservation fee will not be refunded at this time.
Reservations for all state park stays from April 3 to and including May 8 will be canceled and site fees refunded.
Know before you go:
• Travel Oregon travel alerts: https://traveloregon.com/travel-alerts/.
• State park service reductions and closures: https://bit.ly/OPRD-covid.
• Oregon Department of Forestry: https://www.oregon.gov/ODF/
• Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife: https://myodfw.com/visit-odfw-wildlife-areas