Silver Falls State Park reopened to the public on May 19, 2020 after being closed since March due to COVID-19 limits. (Photo: Zach Urness / Statesman Journal)
As Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced new limits on business and socializing to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday, she also emphasized that Oregon’s outdoor recreation would remain open.
“We strongly encourage outdoor recreation and camping,” Brown said in a news conference Friday. “As such, our parks and playgrounds are staying open. Breathing the fresh, if not chilly air, will help every single one of us.”
The remark came in contrast to the statewide closure of developed recreation sites during the “Stay Home, Save Lives” measures taken last spring that lasted from March into May.
This time around, Oregon’s state parks and campgrounds will remain open without changes and all recreation facilities on federal lands will stay open per normal for the winter season, state and federal officials said.
Even places that bring people a bit closer together, such as ski areas, can open and operate if they get enough snow, Brown’s spokesman Elizabeth Merah said.
Ski areas across Oregon have been planning for a different type of year that emphasizes limiting the number of people in lodges, wearing masks and keeping people distanced.
With snow falling in heavy amounts in the mountains, some ski areas may be able to open by Thanksgiving, although most had planned to open in December.
“We had already planned to move the majority of our indoor activities outdoors this season,” said Dave Tragethon, spokesman for Mount Hood Meadows. “None of our ski lessons are assembling indoors — it’s all on the snow.”
As for eating food indoors, Tragethon said they’ve developed a take-out system for its restaurants that they can implement.
“It’s easy to shift to that,” he said.
Brown’s release did say that outdoor zoos, gardens, aquariums, outdoor entertainment activities and outdoor pools would be closed.
But, that doesn’t apply to anything outdoor recreation-related, Merah said. She stressed that limiting the number of people getting together for outdoor adventures was the most critical step in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
“What is critical for all of these activities is that people abide by the limitations on social get-togethers,” Merah said. “That means, if you’re going to go skiing or go visit a park, you must do it in a group of no more than six people total, from no more than two households.”
Havel, spokesman for Oregon’s state parks and campgrounds, said the tricky part would be communicating Oregon’s new travel advisory that urges people to avoid non-essential out-of-state travel and asks anyone coming from out-of-state to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“When people are in a campsite or trailer, they do a pretty good job of staying with their family, because it’s a natural thing to do,” he said. “The question is about people visiting campgrounds from out of state and then going out to grocery stores in nearby communities. So that’s something we’re going to have to look at communications-wise.”
But in general, as the options for many other activities dwindle or are again limited, Oregon’s outdoors will remain one of the few opportunities remaining.
Zach Urness has been an outdoors reporter, photographer and videographer in Oregon for 12 years. To support his work, subscribe to the Statesman Journal.
Urness is the author of “Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon” and “Hiking Southern Oregon.” He can be reached at [email protected] or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.
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