MEDFORD, Ore. — Jackson County is urging people to stay home and avoid visiting county-operated parks, which have been closed to the public since March 23. According to the County, many of those parks are still seeing a number of visitors.
Both the County Parks staff and the Board of Commissioner's office have received several calls about the closures as people look to get outside and enjoy the nice weather.
“Public health officials are asking people to stay home as much as possible at this critical point in this crisis, with the hope that staying away from our parks for a short time will open things back up sooner rather than later,” said Steve Lambert, Jackson County Parks Program Manager. “While sitting fishing on a lake may seem harmless, it goes against the Governor's order to ‘minimize travel, other than essential travel to or from a home, residence, or workplace.'"
According to the County, Governor Brown's order specifies that essential travel is reserved for getting required food, shelter, consumer needs, education, health care, emergency services, essential business or government services, and for the care of family members, household members, the elderly, minors and dependents.
Jackson County said that there have been "numerous instances" of people moving barricades that block parking areas, and many have headed for water "in large groups." People living around Emigrant Lake have called law enforcement to report that gatherings of up to 80 people have come out to the area.
“Any other time we would be happy to give these folks a place to have a little fun,” said Lambert. “But, right now, we want people to stay at home as we all want to get through this crisis as soon as possible.”
The County Parks program says that it doesn't have the staff right now to maintain parks or clean restrooms, on top of the statewide order. Many of those staff members were laid off, since the program relies on user fees instead of property taxes.
“As soon as we are given the go ahead from our public health officials and the Governor, we will proceed with reopening our parks," said Lambert. "This will not be an easy transition, but we will work to get facilities opened and operational as soon as we can. In the end, we want people in our parks as much as they want to be there. Providing a place for fun is what we do!”