A quick trip to the Columbia Gorge or Oregon Coast sounds pretty tempting this weekend. Officials in both areas know you're itching to hit the road, and that's why they have a very clear message as we head into the weekend: Stay home.
As of tomorrow, all beaches surrounding the city of Cannon Beach are closed to everyone—locals and visitors—after the city manager issued an administrative order. Citing the community's proximity to the metro area—essentially a straight shot down Highway 26—yesterday's declaration stated it was critical to restrict access through 7 pm Tuesday, May 12.
"Despite the city's protective measures," the order reads, "the city of Cannon Beach has experienced an increasing influx of visitors defying the state and local restrictions and not practicing safe social distancing, especially on the beaches adjacent to the city. As the weather for the upcoming weekend is forecasted as in the high 70 degrees and sunny, it is extremely likely that such ideal beach weather will further entice visitors from the Portland metropolitan area to visit."
The coast isn't the only part of the state worried about crowds from the valley. Hood River County is trying to get the word out that it is still off limits to visitors, as well.
"We understand that Oregonians are ready to get out and enjoy the Hood River community, and we look forward to when we can once again welcome visitors," Mayor Kate McBride stated in a press release. "But we must remain vigilant in protecting the health and safety of our entire community as well as those who would want to visit. So we will continue to ask everyone to respect Oregon's stay-home order and enjoy this turn in the weather at home."
The county stresses it is not open for recreation due to the coronavirus pandemic, and many sites are still off limits to locals, including all county parks, Hood River's popular Waterfront Park along the Columbia, and all facilities overseen by the Port of Cascade Locks, including the beach, boat launch and campground.
Towns along both the Oregon Coast and the Columbia River Gorge have unpleasant memories of the weekend of March 21, when Portlanders responded to Gov. Kate Brown's plea to stay home by flooding the highways to the beach and the waterfalls for a last visit. Two days later, she shut down the state.
Now, with Oregon preparing gingerly to reopen, tourist destinations don't want a repeat of that fiasco.
Even though some state parks in both Oregon and Washington have started to allow visitors back in and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers relaxed restrictions on some of its properties, agencies are working together to maintain closures at popular sites.
That means all Oregon State Parks day-use sites, campgrounds, trails and campgrounds remain off limits. The Historic Columbia River Highway is also barricaded from Bridal Veil Falls to Ainsworth State Park, with an additional section from Larch Mountain Road to the falls closed from 8 am to 8 pm daily.
People are also not allowed in any of the National Forest System lands in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, even though other areas under that agency's jurisdiction are now open.
Gov. Kate Brown's announcement this week that the first phase of Oregon's reopening would begin May 15 did not approve nonessential travel, which would include a jaunt to cities in the Gorge. Officials want to avoid roads and trailheads jammed with tourists like they saw in March even after public lands agencies closed parks and other attractions.
If your legs need a stretch this weekend, best head to your nearest park for a few laps—just be sure to stay at least 6 feet away from others who have the same idea.
"While we've seen progress with flattening the curve, we will only move through the reopening phases if visitors continue to heed the guidelines," said Ashley Huckaby May, director of Visit Hood River. "We are just beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and nobody wants to reverse the gains already made."