The entrance to Stub Stewart State Park. Photo: Chas Hundley

Two Oregon New Year’s Day traditions are being altered this year due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

The annual First Day Hikes event, started by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) in 2012, will take place without the guided assistance of park rangers and volunteers in light of the danger of spreading COVID-19. 

Winter whale watching also will continue but without volunteers stationed at whale-watching sites, parks and recreation officials say.

“Oregonians love these traditions, but with the pandemic continuing to affect our communities we encourage everyone to visit the whale watching sites and hike or explore a state park January 1 on their own,” OPRD Director Lisa Sumption said. “We encourage visitors to explore parks close to their homes, wear face coverings, and practice recommended social distancing. If a park is crowded, please consider visiting another nearby park.”

Parking fees for the 25 parks that require a permit will be waived on Jan. 1, which includes Stub Stewart State Park. Be sure to visit the Oregon State Parks status map before visiting a state park to see which parks are open or closed, and which locations have reduced their services.

Whale watching sites may have reduced services, too, such as the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, where the exterior viewing deck remains open but the center itself is closed to the public.

The parks and recreation department also wants people to know there is a new COVID-19 resource available — an online mapping tool (not a smartphone app) — that provides information about most of the state’s publicly accessible recreation areas, including city, county, state, and federal lands.

The web-based tool also displays nearby recreation opportunities with detailed information for each site. Use it at Parkpulse.io.