'Trash, human waste' forces Oregon forestry officials to shut down dispersed camping

The Oregon Department of Forestry will temporarily bar all dispersed camping beginning on Monday in order to make those areas safe for visitors.

Posted: May 8, 2020 6:04 PM
Updated: May 8, 2020 6:08 PM

SALEM, Ore. — The actions of some careless stewards of Oregon state lands have caused the Department of Forestry to temporarily shut down dispersed camping on ODF-managed lands starting on Monday.

Unlike campgrounds — which have been closed in Oregon due to the COVID-19 response — dispersed camping areas usually do not have restrooms or sites for disposal of garbage. Campers are supposed to pack out everything that the bring in, as well as properly disposing of human waste.

"These actions are integral to keeping campers and the forests safe and healthy, particularly as the agency currently does not have adequate capacity to manage sanitation issues at dispersed sites," ODF said. "Problems with trash and human waste accumulation in these areas have become insurmountable and hazardous for the public and ODF employees."

The closure applies to dispersed camping in the Tillamook, Clatsop, Santiam, Sun Pass, and Gilchrist state forests, as well as any other lands managed by ODF. It could last for several weeks while the agency brings in "additional resources" to clean the areas and make them safe for public use.

There is currently no set date for reopening dispersed camping to the public.

“We have strived to continue to allow as much access to Oregon’s state forests as possible while ensuring everyone’s safety, including our staff,” State Forester Peter Daugherty said. “Unfortunately, the current conditions are hazardous to the public and our employees. We appreciate the public’s understanding and look forward to reopening these areas as soon as we can safely do so.”

ODF says that people visiting state forests for daytime recreation should know:

  • There are no restrooms or garbage disposal sites available. Leave no trace on the landscape, which includes packing out all garbage.
  • Human waste must be buried at least 6 inches underground and away from trails, parking areas, bodies of water and any other areas where people commonly gather.
  • Physical distancing still applies in the outdoors. Plan on maintaining a six-foot distance from people outside of your party, and you are encouraged to wear a cloth face covering when interacting with others. Plan on recreating elsewhere if social distancing is not possible due to crowding.
  • Due to restroom closures, you are also strongly encouraged to bring personal hygiene supplies with you, such as hand sanitizer or soap and water.

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