By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Holiday crowds, fresh snow, and people looking for healthy outdoor activities are filling up parking lots in the higher elevations near Bend.
We heard reports over the weekend of vehicles being turned away from the Wanoga Sno-Park and on Monday the Meissner parking lot was full by mid-day.
The crowded parking lots are likely to persist for a while.
“It’s kind of a mess. We circled around for a little while and kind of gave up,” said Dillon Hoffman, a visitor from California. “Just decided to park here and do the best we can.”
Parking for Wanoga sledding backed clear up the hill toward the snowmobile side of the sno-park.
“Very easy. We drove up here and there was actually a lot of parking spaces available,” said Oliver Watson of Sunriver. “We tried to find one that was away from the big trailers that might back into us.”
“Even sno-parks that we don’t typically experience a lot of use are seeing increased use,” said Jana Johnson, Recreation Leader for the Deschutes National Forest
Johnson says local sno-parks are seeing unprecedented levels of activity.
They believe the usual winter ski and snowmobile fun-seekers, combined with people fighting COVID cabin fever, are filling sno-park parking lots to capacity.
“Know that there’s going to be a lot more people out there and plan accordingly,” Johnson said. “Have an alternate location in your back pocket where you might want to go if it’s looking like your first choice is full up.”
One definite no-no is parking alongside the Cascade Lakes Highway.
“Between no access for the plows and no clearing as a consequence, and the danger of somebody opening their door into a high-speed traffic environment, it’s just not a good mix,” said Peter Murphy, a spokesman with Oregon Department of Transportation
So far, law enforcement is promoting health and safety and educating drivers, but citations are possible for people who park in no-parking areas or alongside the highway.