CANNON BEACH (AP) — Ecola means “whale” in the Chinook Wawa trade language — and, much like a whale, sections of Ecola State Park are heading out to sea.
The park remains closed indefinitely after a February landslide that damaged the primary entrance road and sent a portion of a trail, trees and salal bushes cascading over a cliff edge.
With the closure, the state expects increased tourism and recreational pressure on other state parks, especially parks like Oswald West to the south, The Astorian reported.
Ecola State Park is one of Cannon Beach’s main attractions, coming in second below the iconic Haystack Rock, said Jim Paino, the executive director of the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce.
“Right now I’d say the impact isn’t huge,” he said. “But we still get people in the visitor center who came to go to the park and are surprised that it’s closed.”
Ecola sees more than half a million day-use visitors every year. State park sites on the North Coast in general have been increasing in popularity in recent years.
While Paino can’t quantify the economic impact of Ecola being off limits — Cannon Beach hasn't had to weather a long closure in years — he believes there will be a hit to a certain extent, especially if the closure extends into the summer tourism season.
The chamber published a new page on its website that lists alternative places to visit, both to get the word out about Ecola and to show visitors there are other options.
The state has prepared a request for bids to repair the damaged section of Ecola Park Road and is waiting on contractors. An update to park staff stated it was “still too early to even guess about a completion date.”
Once the road is made safe, work can begin to repair water and communication lines also damaged in the slide. Repairs to the trail below the road that was washed out by the slide are expected to take even longer.
Work to reroute a trail between Ecola Point and Indian Beach that was cut in half by a slide in 2016 has been on hold because of winter weather. Depending on how long the road repairs take, the reroute may also be delayed.
Sections of Ecola Park Road need repairs nearly every winter as landslides are exacerbated by heavy rainfall and storms, but there have not been lengthy closures at the park in years.
In 1961, a landslide at Ecola Point damaged 125 acres and the park was closed for 10 months. It was closed for four months in 1975 because of a slide that affected the entrance road.
Following repairs this time, the state plans to revisit a broader repair strategy.