A handful of state parks began to reopen with limited day use on Wednesday throughout Oregon and Portland’s Tryon Creek State Natural Area saw an increase in visitors throughout the day as the weather warmed.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has closed all its properties to the public since March 23 to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and to align with Gov. Kate Brown’s stay-at-home order. Wednesday, the agency reopened eight inland parks and boat ramps throughout the state to limited day use, including Tryon Creek.
Marilynn Block from neighboring Lake Oswego said she’s thrilled parks are beginning to reopen.
“It’s just such a part of my day-to-day experience, I just love being in the woods and being out in the open,” Block said. “I think it's very healing mentally for people. It brings you balance and harmony.”
During the closure, Block said, she spent her time looking for other trails that could give her an outdoor fix.
“It’s been really hard but I’m glad I have my health and I’m not sick. You just have to find little glimmers of joy you can find throughout the day,” Block said.
State park manager for Tryon Creek Iris Benson said she’s glad that people finally have the ability to return and enjoy the outdoors.
“I recognize that that is a need people really have in general and especially during hard times,” Benson said.
Park staff spent what started out as a quiet and damp morning taking down signage and fencing around trails to welcome back visitors.
Workers also created a one-way routing system so people can maintain safe social distancing while accessing the only available single-use restroom.
“I’m having conversations with staff about prioritizing their safety and what that means when we’re providing customer service and welcoming people back into the park, so we can also maintain a level of distance and safety while we do that,” Benson said.
Benson said the park may attract more visitors as the weather warms and clears this week. And that could make it harder to maintain 6-foot social distancing standards in place during the coronavirus pandemic. She said she will continue to closely monitor what could be a rapidly changing situation, in which parks can still close if the public doesn’t follow social distancing guidelines.
“We’re having to remain fluid and adjustable as we observe situations and welcome the public back into the park,” Benson said.
The government is encouraging people to visit state parks within 50 miles of where they live. Oregon State Parks spokesperson Chris Havel said they are asking visitors to respect others' space while out in the parks and on the trails.
“Not just keep your 6-foot minimum physical distance from each other, but [also] not to get into confrontations about choices other people are making,” Havel said. “... If you see other people and you’re not comfortable with the way they are behaving, I think your best choice is to leave the park.”
Havel said the parks department is already considering adjustments at Tryon Creek, including staffing the gate to limit entry as weather warms. The forecast for the Portland area calls for 80 degrees and sunshine through the weekend.