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Update: Oregon Coast Closures Extended But Opening Plans Underway, Explained

Published 04/28/2020 at 7:54 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Update: Oregon Coast Closures Extended But Opening Plans Underway, Explained

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(Portland, Oregon) – Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) has extended its beach access closure beyond the original possible opening date of May 8. There are now officially no dates for opening accesses, but the tone is perhaps a little more hopeful now that a planning process is in the works.

All camping reservations have been canceled through at least May 25 and fees refunded. While shorelines technically remain open, most means to get to them are closed.

The entire issue is becoming extremely complex and hard to understand, with just about all counties extending their overnight ban, except for Coos County. Even so, the governor’s order regarding all non-essential travel stands.

At least now OPRD is offering glimpses into a road map for reopening beach accesses. A meeting was held Tuesday between OPRD, federal recreational land managers, regional tourism officials and Travel Oregon, among others. The team will begin laying down a framework for reopening recreational spots around the state, which will depend heavily on what each community feels it’s ready for. Some beach areas or parts of Eastern Oregon may not open for awhile, for example, while others might.

OPRD communications director Chris Havel spoke with Oregon Coast Beach Connection Tuesday. Openings will be driven by community health, and when and where will be diverse.

“Right off the bat, we have no dates on any opening – period,” Havel said. “Yes, day use will happen before camping. That will be selective and will depend on which areas of the state are ready for visits. Which community is ready to open parks nearby, which parks are ready – if they have staff, if they have cleaning equipment, whatever they need.”

In the last week, Clatsop and Lincoln counties extended their ban on lodgings and overnight camping through to May 31, which seals the fate for any Memorial Weekend travel. Tillamook County’s was supposed to expire on April 30, but it was extended to May 15..

On the southern Oregon coast, Coos County is so far letting its lodging halt order expire at the end of April. However, a meeting this week in may extend that. Curry County has their ban in place “until further notice.”

This means that as of Thursday, Coos County (Bandon, Coos Bay, Charleston, etc) will be open for guests to stay at hotels and rentals. However, most beach accesses and all major attractions are not open. The Oregon's Adventure Coast Group, which promotes tourism in the area, is asking people to stay home for now. An extension decision will happen May 11.

From OPRD’s perspective, any opening of beach accesses will greatly depend on input from local communities. For example, Cannon Beach and Manzanita may decide to continue not allowing visitors into their towns, which would cause OPRD to leave those beaches alone.

“Part of the arithmetic of opening any park is community support,” Havel said. “We’re checking with communities now, on a county and a regional level and asking ‘are you onboard?’ If a community is not ready then we won’t open camping or day use too. So we move away from that area and to opening an area that will not cause problems locally. If they’re not ready we’re not going to force them.”

For a time, any map of Oregon coast towns and beach areas that are open for visitors may look like a patchwork.

Many people feel particularly outraged by the ban on camping, maintaining that this is the ultimate social distancing.

That’s an illusion as it’s a much more involved activity than people think. According to Havel, much of the ban has to do with crowd control – like the closing of all beach accesses for now. He said a big problem with camping is that it’s done by people living two hours away or more, which means various stops along the way there and back. There are also issues involving people crowding around some campsite facilities, like restrooms or wood sheds.

Beach areas will open gradually, with camping coming back in last place. Then, Havel warned, things will be starkly different around state parks and beaches when they do reopen. Prepare for a new world.

“If people are thinking that suddenly we’ll see a switch flip, and suddenly we’ll just be like we were before, nahhhh,” he said. “We’re going to have to adapt to things being different than they were before. You’ll have to take care of yourself and care about everyone else. You’ll have to be self-sufficient.”

Havel said you’ll have to make sure you bring everything you need with you, such as food, hand sanitizer, and you’ll need to keep social distancing in mind. You’ll have to travel close to home, and don’t travel if you’re sick.

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