Summer 2020 is here — but it’s different than previous years.
As Oregon’s outdoor areas and businesses gradually welcome visitors back under Gov. Kate Brown’s phased framework for reopening Oregon, it’s important to know how to enjoy these outdoor spaces safely. Already land managers are noticing increases in visitation and search-and-rescue missions.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, face coverings are now required indoors (including visitor centers and park restrooms) and outdoors when physical distancing is not possible. Yet, that’s not the only consideration before visiting a recreation site right now. Be prepared for new protocols to ensure a happy — and safe — visit. Here are six important steps for getting outside this summer.
1. Stay local with day trips near home
As you prepare for a day trip to Oregon’s outdoors, be sure to pick a destination that’s close to home. Visiting a distant park can put a community’s limited resources at risk and make you less prepared for unexpected closures. Land managers recommend avoiding the more popular sites and peak hours. A new Oregon web resource, Parkpulse.io surfaces recreation points near your location with details about each site’s crowding potential and COVID-19 stats.
Stick to groups under 10 people and only members of your household. Limiting travel and contact with non-household members helps contain the spread of COVID-19. Stay home if you feel sick or have any flu-like symptoms.
2. Check the park’s status before you go
Oregon’s parks, like other public places, have mostly closed or reduced services, but are now beginning to open to visitors on a limited basis. Not all recreation sites will open at the same time and hours; operations and facilities (such as restrooms) may be limited. Before you go, learn who manages the site and if they’re currently open.
Understand closures can happen without notice. Parks may close unexpectedly due to public safety concerns, such as if physical distancing cannot be maintained or there is risk of an infected person at the site. Have a backup plan in case your destination closes unexpectedly.
Wondering what is open or closed? Here are some restrictions to keep in mind.
3. Pack everything you need
Bring all the supplies needed for the day, including the Ten Essentials, hand sanitizer, face coverings, money for park fees and gas. Supplies are limited in parks and communities — including toilet paper. By coming prepared, you skip making unnecessary stops and avoid additional points of contact that carry the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Consider purchasing your parking pass in advance. Most parks prefer card payment, but many sites managed by the Forest Service and BLM accept cash only.
4. Practice good personal hygiene and physical distancing
Just because you’re outdoors doesn’t mean you won’t run into other people. Keep practicing good personal hygiene and wash or sanitize your hands often. Know which facilities are open (restrooms may be closed) and avoid high-touchpoint areas like playgrounds and picnic shelters as they are not disinfected frequently. Cover your cough with a tissue (and then throw it away), or the inside of your elbow.
Face coverings are now required when physical distancing is difficult. Be prepared to wear your face covering on the trail (pull them up when passing other hikers), trailheads, boat ramps, beaches and rivers — it’s also a nice way of showing others that you care.
Continue to practice physical distancing. When you’re out on the trail, make sure you are keeping a distance of six feet or more between yourself and others outside of your household. According to standard trail etiquette, hikers coming uphill have the right of way. If your site is too crowded and you are not able to maintain six feet of distance, leave and come back another time.
5. Prevent crowding in parking lots, trail and boat ramps
Don’t linger at parking lots, trailheads or boat ramps to avoid crowding . Parking areas, trailheads and boat ramps can get crowded quickly, hindering emergency and residential access. Park your car in designated areas only.
Always keep pets leashed with a 6-feet distance from other people and animals. The CDC reports that pets can contract COVID-19.
6. Be mindful and avoid risky behavior
Pay attention to your surroundings. Stay on designated trails except when you briefly need to give others more room when passing to maintain physical distancing. Take any trash with you, including disposable gloves and face coverings, and make wildfire prevention a priority. Leaving no trace and ensuring the parks stay clean lessens the impact on staff and the risk of exposure to virus.
It’s not the time to try new things — choose activities within your skill level. Risky behavior puts strain on limited health and rescue resources, which are focused on virus-related emergency needs right now.
More tips for exploring Oregon’s outdoors
Relish in the beauty: Experiencing the quiet, awe-inspiring beauty of nature can not only uplift your spirits, it can improve your health. Think of Oregon’s vast outdoors as your place to relax and recharge, especially right now when many of us are vulnerable to stress and anxiety. You can help us keep this place beautiful for generations to come by recreating responsibly and avoid taking unnecessary risks.
T.R.E.A.D. lightly: One handy reference tool is to follow the T.R.E.A.D. principles for treading lightly while social distancing outdoors: Travel responsibly (stay close to home), respect the rights of others, educate yourself, avoid sensitive areas and do your part (pack out what you pack in).
Support local businesses: Keep in mind that as you plot your post-hike reward, restaurants have adjusted hours and operations. You can still treat yourself to a yummy burger or plate of tacos — just call to see if the establishment is requiring reservations or offering takeout. Consider buying a restaurant gift card for future use to show your love for local businesses.
Keep dreaming: Oregon’s spirit of travel lives on. Plan now for trips you’ll take when your favorite natural areas have reopened, and the new ones in Oregon you’ll explore. We’ll be here when you’re ready.