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Following a Summer of Overrun Hiking Trails, Oregon’s Sno-Parks Saw a Record Season, Too

Over the past year, when the outdoors have been some of the only places we can actually go, state and federal parks have only become more overwhelmed.

Hiking trails aren't the only outdoor spaces that have been overrun during the pandemic: Oregon's Sno-Parks and ski areas have dealt with unusually high volume, too.

In a piece in the Statesman Journal, Forest Service officials and ski-area operators report an unsustainable influx of crowds, often leading to illegal or unsafe parking.

"I've never seen crowds like this year—it was just totally over the top," Wy'East Nordic owner Shelley Hakanson told the paper. "Cars were parked for miles down both sides of the highway. There was people just jumping into the road. Some families were so desperate they went sledding down the cut-banks of the highway and into the ditch. It was insane."

Even before the pandemic, outdoor recreation sites in Oregon were becoming increasingly overcrowded.

In 2019, the U.S. Forest Service announced it would use new permits to reduce crowds in the central Cascades (though implementation has been delayed until this summer due to COVID-19).

But over the past year, when the outdoors have been some of the only places we can actually go, state and federal parks have only become more overwhelmed.

Last November, Tillamook County increased day-use fees at several recreation sites, and over the summer, the Forest Service closed access to Lake Cusham in the Olympic National Forest due to overcrowding.

Multnomah Falls, meanwhile, has been using timed-entry tickets to curb crowds. And back in July, neighbors near Smith Rock State Park started a petition for more parking to handle overflow near the popular rock climbing destination.