The Banks-Vernonia State Trail. Photo: Chas Hundley

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SALEM - Spring break is in full swing, and Oregonians are ignoring Governor Kate Brown’s pleas to practice social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and stay close to home. 

As a result, Brown has ordered three agencies — the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon Department of Forestry, and Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife — to close campgrounds and parks in their jurisdictions beginning Monday, March 23 and lasting until at least May 8.

 “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. “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.”

Day use areas will close by 5 p.m. on Monday, and all overnight campers must be checked out by 1 p.m. Monday. 

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Campers will be refunded for any canceled nights.

According to a previous press release from Oregon Parks and Recreation, the department will review the closure to determine if it will be extended. 

The closure is comprehensive, shuttering individual and group campsites, yurts, cabins, group day use areas, and more, shuttering the entirety of the state parks system.

Beaches can also be closed at OPRD discretion.

The closure also affects the Banks-Vernonia Linear Trail, according to Chris Havel, a spokesperson for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Havel said that users will not be permitted on the state trail running between the cities of Banks and Vernonia. 

Locally, Stub Stewart State Park will be impacted, as will a large number of sites maintained by the Oregon Department of Forestry in the Tillamook State Forest, including the Gales Creek Campground west of Gales Creek and Reehers Camp in Timber, both of which were scheduled to reopen May 17. 

With the closures, no ODF campgrounds have a scheduled reopening date, according to the press release. 

Other campgrounds and day use areas nearby will either close or not reopen as originally scheduled, including Stagecoach Horse Camp, Browns Camp, Elk Creek Campground, and other ODF maintained sites in the Tillamook State Forest. 

The ODF managed Tillamook Forest Center had already closed on March 18. 

During the closure, trails, forest roads and trailheads on state forestlands will be open to the public. 

The ODF&W managed Jewell Meadows State Wildlife Management Area near Jewell in the Clatsop State Forest will be closed as well. 

For more information on park closures, visit https://bit.ly/OPRD-covid.