SALEM, Ore. — Campgrounds operated by three Oregon state agencies will be shut down on different timelines in an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus, state officials announced on Thursday.
Campgrounds operated by the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department will stay open for current overnight guests through April 2. However, reservations for all state park stays from April 3 through May 8 will be canceled and site fees refunded.
The Depoe Bay Whale Watch Center is now closed & will remain so during #ORWhaleWatch Week March 21-29, & beyond. The closure is the best way to reduce the risk of #COVID-19 spreading further. Learn about other #ORStateParks changes to operations here: https://t.co/kBGVOYU5aZ pic.twitter.com/trK5ikSYX0— Oregon State Parks (@ORStateParks) March 17, 2020
"Before May 8, the department will review the state park campground closure to decide whether it should be extended," the agency said. "The decision affects all individual and group overnight facilities: campsites, yurts, cabins, tepees, and services operated by concessionaires. The suspended service also affects reservations for group day-use areas."
Most of the Oregon Department of Forestry's campgrounds in the Clatsop, Santiam, and Tillamook State Forests are already closed for the season, and will not re-open. Year-round campgrounds will be closed starting Monday, March 23.
"All day-use and campground restrooms are temporarily closed due to limited janitorial services. A reopening date for all restrooms and state forest campgrounds has not yet been determined," state officials said. "During this time, trails, forest roads and trailheads on state forestlands will remain open to the public."
The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife will close its wildlife areas to overnight camping on Sunday, March 22. The closure affects both dispersed camping and established campgrounds. Several wildlife areas are currently fully or partially closed to all visitors as part of annual seasonal closures to protect wintering wildlife.
While camping will be prohibited, wildlife areas that are currently open remain open to visitors for day-use activities including wildlife viewing, fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation.
"State park, forest, and wildlife area camping areas are built into relatively small areas by design," Oregon Parks & Rec said. "Maintaining social distance is difficult. Working with fewer staff and volunteers is becoming a reality, making it difficult to maintain proper cleaning procedures. To support the state goal of reducing transmission of COVID-19, temporary campground closures are necessary. The details of these actions — such as dates and affected programs — are under constant review and will change as new information develops."
Officials acknowledged that this will reduce long-distance travel for many people, but they reminded Oregonians that a local outdoor experience "can improve our mental and physical health, especially now." Daytime activities are still widely available and encouraged. The usual reminders, plus the new COVID-19 guidelines, apply:
- Prepare for your visit with the clothing, supplies, and knowledge you need to have a safe visit.
- If you're ill, stay home.
- Cover sneezes and coughs with a tissue (then throw it away) or inside of your elbow.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Wash regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. It's up to you to practice good personal hygiene, and not every place at every park can be kept clean all the time.
- If place is so crowded you can't maintain a healthy social distance — at least six feet — find a different place to go.