State Parks Close After Weekend Crowding, New Business Closures Coming

  In response to crowds at the coast and in the Gorge over the weekend, officials announced that all Oregon State Parks will be closed starting Monday.  

“We would have preferred an orderly shutdown of the system and to remain open for daytime visits, but our concern for the effects on rural health care systems requires us to move up and expand our plans,” said Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, in a statement. “We know this will cause a disruption, since we’re suspending service to everyone, even people who live near a park. Reducing contact between people is more important than recreation at the moment.”  

All state park day use areas will close at 5 p.m. Monday. Campers will be required to check out no later than 1 p.m., and will be refunded for canceled nights. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department also stated that it could close all beaches if social distancing directives were not obeyed.  

Despite social distancing advisories and CDC guidelines, communities like Seaside and Tillamook were overwhelmed by tourists over the weekend. Tillamook closed access to all local and state parks Sunday and began limiting beach access, while Warrenton closed all campgrounds and gave campers 24 hours to check out. Lincoln County was considering pursuing a similar eviction of visitors, citing the low number of hospital beds available in the county. 

ODOT reported traffic volumes comparable to mid-summer levels on the Historic Columbia River Highway, and officials announced a closure of the Multnomah Falls recreation area on Sunday. 

More business closures to be ordered: The state park shutdown comes as elected officials face increasing concerns that social distancing measures are not enough. On Saturday, 25 mayors from the Portland area sent Gov. Kate Brown a letter requesting a shelter-in-place. County chairs from Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties sent a similar letter on Sunday.  

Late Sunday night, Willamette Week reported the governor was preparing a draft “Stay home” order. WW reported seeing a draft that specifies some of the businesses to be closed: amusement parks, hair salons, bowling alleys, furniture stores, boutiques, gyms, “indoor and outdoor malls,” spas, museums, senior centers, ski resorts, social and private clubs, tattoo parlors and theaters. (Cannabis shops will not be closed.) 

According to WW it also authorizes the Oregon Health Authority to come up with a list of other nonessential businesses that will need to close. Remaining open: restaurants, bars and cafes serving takeout food.  

By Kevin Davenport-Rackham