State Parks closure slows operations at outdoor-based businesses
In the months leading up to summer, Luke Spencer of Clackamas River Outfitters is typically gearing up to take customers out for adventures on the water.
But this year, the COVID-19 crisis has led to several changes for the Estacada-based business. Both areas where Clackamas River Outfitters has locations for kayak and paddle board rentals, Milo McIver State Park and Timber Park, have closed to facilitate social distancing during the pandemic. Likewise, Clackamas River Outfitters' store in downtown Estacada temporarily closed its doors last month.
"(COVID-19) has pretty much shut down 98% of our business," Spencer said, noting that they have had several customers purchase boats and other larger river equipment online. "Luckily, we don't have a lot of overhead. All of our gear has already been purchased."
At Milo McIver State Park, ranger Mark Shaw noted that the park typically receives more than 7,000 monthly visitors during this time of year. But because of the closure, which began on March 23 and applies to all Oregon State Parks, visitors haven't been at McIver's hiking trails, disc golf course and access points to the Clackamas River.
Prior to May 8, state parks staff will determine whether to extend the closure.
If conditions allow, the state parks closure is tentatively expected to be lifted on May 8.
During this time, a hiring freeze has been implemented across all Oregon State Parks. Along with three rangers and a park specialist, Milo McIver would also normally have two seasonal employees right now. Additionally, the park manager position is vacant and not being filled.
"We're hoping to open May 8 and bring seasonal staff on in June, but that could easily change," Shaw said, referencing the rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 crisis.
Last April, Milo McIver generated $29,782 in revenue, mainly from park user fees.
McIver's closure also has impacts for the greater Estacada area community. Though many local businesses are temporarily closed because of COVID-19, visitors to the state park often patronize Estacada restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations.
A study published in 2017 found that visitors to all Oregon State Parks properties spent more than $1.1 billion in communities near the parks during the previous year. At Milo McIver, data collected in 2011 found that those traveling 30 miles or less to reach the park spent a total of $4,797,00 and those who traveled more than 30 miles to reach the park spent a total of $2,986,000.
"Recreation generates a lot of money into the local economy. The economic impact of us being shut down, that's money from the rest of the state that would be being funneled into this community," Shaw said.
At Clackamas River Outfitters, the season typically starts at the beginning of June, but some people begin renting kayaks and paddle boards before that.
"Every day that it's sunny, we're losing business," Spencer said, adding that the height of their business occurs in July and August. "(July 1) is the big deadline that will make or break the season."
Shaw noted that Oregon State Parks staff want to begin facilitating recreation opportunities when it is safe to do so.
"We want to get the parks open again, but now is not the time," he said.
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