Brown reopens some state parks, recreation areas and ski resorts

Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday announced the limited opening of state parks, outdoor recreation facilities and day-use areas across the state effective immediately.

Brown also said ski areas can reopen under a new forthcoming executive order, but it’s not yet clear when that order is coming or when Mt. Bachelor might resume operations.

High-density parks on the north coast, the Columbia Gorge, boat accesses to the John Day and Deschutes Rivers, and places like Smith Rock will likely be among the last to return to limited service, and no dates for state parks in those regions have been announced, according to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

Camping opportunities will become available as federal, state, local and private providers are able to prepare their facilities for visitors.

Parks returning to limited daytime service:

  • Tryon Creek in Portland
  • Willamette Mission north of Keizer
  • Mongold boat ramp at Detroit Lake
  • State Capitol State Park in Salem
  • The Cove Palisades boat ramp at Lake Billy Chinook near Culver
  • Prineville Reservoir boat ramp near Prineville
  • Joseph Stewart boat ramp on Lost Creek Lake near Shady Cove
  • Pilot Butte to pedestrians (no vehicles) in Bend

“We know these last six weeks has seemed longer, but your health is important to us,” says Lisa Sumption, Oregon Parks and Recreation Director. “It is true outdoor recreation boosts our mental and physical health, but parks concentrate people in a community, and we have to do this carefully if it’s going to work. We need your cooperation to keep parks open.”

Limited day-use will slowly return to other state parks starting the week of May 11 based on the readiness of the community around the park to welcome visitors, and how prepared the park is with staff, supplies, and equipment.

State parks will open and close with little advance notice; updates will be posted online at oregonstateparks.org or call 800-551-6949 (Mon-Fri, 8a-5p) and should be checked before visiting.

Not all restrooms will be open, and parking will be limited. State park camping will return as soon as it can be safely managed, and while preparations are being made, no opening date has been selected.

If a park appears crowded, leave and come back at another time. If there’s space at the park, patrons need to visit with care:

  • Wear a face covering. Homemade is fine.
  • Stay at least six feet away from people who aren’t from your household. More is better.
  • Cover your cough with a tissue (then throw it away), or the inside of your elbow.
  • Leave no trace: pack out everything you bring with you.
  • Stick to low-risk activities to reduce stress on local emergency response and health care systems.
  • Keep your visit short. Restrooms and other buildings may be closed.
  • Watch for signs at the park for more information.

Brown made clear this shouldn’t be a free-for-all, saying it’s “essential that Oregonians recreate responsibly to protect the health, wellness, and safety of themselves and others in local communities.”

“Enjoying Oregon’s beauty and bounty is one of our state’s time-honored traditions,” Brown said. “As we begin to slowly open up recreation sites, state parks, and ski areas opportunities, it is critical we ensure the health and safety of staff, volunteers, and the public. And that begins with each of us taking personal responsibility to be good stewards of our parks, and each other.”

Columbia River Gorge parks and recreation areas, as well as coastal areas that are not yet ready to welcome visitors back, will remain closed for now, while the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department coordinates with local jurisdictions and partners in Washington to determine the appropriate timing for reopening, Brown said. 

Oregon’s outdoor recreation providers and the Oregon Health Authority have partnered to create recommendations for safely and gradually offering limited outdoor recreation opportunities. This approach will not open all day use and camping opportunities at once.

Reopening outdoor recreation areas will be a phased approach as it becomes safe for some communities and recreational providers to do so, and will change the way that Oregonians visit some familiar sites.

Guidelines for responsible outdoor recreation include:

Prepare before you go:

  • Limit your recreation activities, and recreate only with people in your own household.
  • Check what’s open before leaving home. Your favorite trail or campsite may remain closed, or need to be closed on a temporary basis, to prevent crowding and protect public health.
  • Plan ahead and come prepared as service levels may be different than you are accustomed to.
  • Visitors may find limited restroom services available. Plan to bring your own soap, water, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper.
  • Bring a mask to cover your nose and mouth. Visit less crowded areas, visit during off-peak times, and have a back-up plan.
  • Not feeling well? Don’t go. If you have symptoms of a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, stay home.

Take care when you get there:

  • Be safe and responsible by choosing activities within your comfort zone.
  • Leave no trace, and pack out what you pack in.
  • Maintain your own personal hygiene like washing your hands often, bringing your own water, hand sanitizer, soap, and toilet paper.
  • Avoid crowds. Be prepared for last minute changes to ensure the safety and health of others.
  • All of the standard ways to protect public health apply in the outdoors too, like maintaining physical distance.
  • Keep at least 6 feet between you and other Oregonians enjoying the outdoors. Launch one boat at time to ensure other Oregonians have enough space to launch safely and securely.
  • Leave at least one parking space between your vehicle and the vehicle next to you.
  • It is wildfire season. Please remain safe and vigilant to ensure forest health and safety. Do not start fires in undesignated areas. Check if your campground or park allows outdoor fires before you strike a match. If permitted, make sure you are building a campfire properly and that you have water or an extinguisher on hand. Before you leave, ensure the campfire is out. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.
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