State parks gradually reopening
Despite a pandemic, wildfires and budgets slammed by a reduction in revenue due to closures, Oregon State Parks employees are busily preparing campgrounds and other facilities for what they hope will be a more normal spring break and summer season.
"Our visitors and staff have weathered a rough 12 months," Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, said. "None of us imagined this time last year that we would face a more than two-month shutdown of Oregon State Parks and then reopen under pandemic safety precautions, followed by last September's wildfires that damaged our local communities and several state parks. This February's ice storm also brought down trees and limbs and damaged some facilities in northern Willamette Valley and Columbia River Gorge parks."
Sumption added that the department is working with fewer employees due to a pandemic-caused revenue shortfall, which in turn prevented the department from hiring its usual seasonal staff. Despite that, she said, existing staff have rallied to get work done.
"We're very grateful to them and to all state park visitors for their patience," she added.
The OPRD has lost nearly $20 million in revenue over the past year as proceeds from the Oregon Lottery and park visitor fees have flagged. Still, nearly all state parks are open or will be in the next few months. The department has begun recruiting seasonal staff for park operations, which it is financing through spending reductions begun last year.
The OPRD is evaluating the status of campgrounds at two state facilities that were closed temporarily, Collier Memorial Park and Detroit Lake State Park, and suffered in last summer's wildfires. Crews are waiting for snow to abate to assess the damage at Collier Memorial State Park from the Two Four Two Fire.
Detroit Lake State Park suffered infrastructure damage in the Beachie Fire, although the popular Mongold day-use area and boat launch are open. Workers are on scene repairing those particular state parks and hope to have them opened by summer.
Rate hike at some campgrounds
The overnight camping rate for most parks will remain at 2020 levels, except for a $3 increase for electric hook-up sites in selected parks from May 28 through Sept. 6. Electric hook-ups will range from $24 to $35 and $26 to $38 for full hook-ups at most of the popular parks, including at Champoeg. The temporary, COVID-related surcharge on out-of-state campers ended March 1.
Some restrictions apply
The OPRD said that some pandemic-related, temporary charges will remain in place statewide for group gatherings, including keeping group facilities and hiker/biker camps closed. One-day "rest periods" will continue for yurts and cabins so as to give staff time to sanitize the facilities between visits.
For more information about Oregon State Parks and campgrounds, visit stateparks.oregon.gov.
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