PORTLAND, Ore — A big reason a lot of us live here is that we love the outdoors.
It's been absolutely gorgeous this week and we're all going a little stir-crazy cooped up at home.
We know it is so tempting to want to hit the coast or the Gorge this weekend, but please resist. While you can enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, do it safely.
Normally on a warm weekend, Oregonians and out-of-staters would flock to the coast for razor clamming, trek up to waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, or maybe do a little spring skiing but we are not in normal times. Much of Oregon's outdoors is off-limits right now.
Public land in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is closed. Oregon Department of Transportation blocked a long stretch of the Historic Columbia River Highway.
But that hasn't stopped hoards of people from visiting. Some are trespassing onto closed parks and trails, and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) says people even throwing signs off the road and moving barricades.
"If you're not going to respect the closure it’s going to force us to take a more stern approach. And we don't want that,” OPRD park manager Clay Courtright said.
OPRD invited media out to watch drivers flowing in. But while our photojournalist was there, it looked like most people got the memo.
Currently, in Oregon, all state parks are closed. The actual ocean shore isn't closed - except in the city of Seaside - but state-managed beach accesses and parking lots are.
If you're confused about any closures, the state has this message:
“If you're trying to figure out how to travel and you’re not sure what's open and what's not I think you've missed the point,” Chris Havel, spokesman for OPRD, said, “We're not trying to make travel inconvenient, we're not trying to force you to find a different way to get to your favorite trail or down to your favorite beach. We are trying to get you to stay home.”
Havel says just assume everything is closed, except for what's nearby.
"It gets easy from that point. Anything else you’re kind of telling yourself what you think you might want to hear to justify getting out into this beautiful weather. So stop fooling yourself. I know it’s hard, really. We feel for you. But don’t travel. Stay close to home. We’ll get through this as long as we all chip in,” Havel added.
Most Oregonians are doing the right thing and following the governor's stay home order, according to public health officials.
Havel believes some aren't due to a combination of at least a couple things, compounded by the temptation of beautiful weather and sunshine.
"And people say, 'Well, if most people stay in I can go out, right, that it won't be as bad if it's just a few of us so I’ll be the special one who gets to go out,'" Havel said. "You can really fool yourself into thinking it really is OK, that we’re through the worst of it, nothing bad has happened yet, it won't hurt anything. There’s a little self-fooling going on."
The other reason could be because some people think the closures are unnecessary or an overreaction. They know we're in the middle of a public health crisis and have heard the warnings, but believe they can ignore them.
"Both those things will make it harder for us to get through this as fast as humanly possible and will make the closures go longer. And nobody wants that," Havel added.
As of this weekend, if you don't live in Oregon you can't hunt or fish here until at least early May. If you are an Oregonian and do want to fish, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife wants you to stick close to home.
The move is mostly to prevent Washingtonians from coming down to Oregon. This comes after Washington announced the same restrictions.
Don't go crabbing or clamming unless you live on the coast and, even then, only go where you're allowed.
Rural coastal communities like Lincoln County are worried about COVID-19 overwhelming their smaller health care systems.
In a joint video message with the sheriff's office, Lincoln County Board of Commissioners Chair Kaety Jacobson asked residents to stay in the county and not travel outside to their favorite destination, while sending this message to people from out of town:
“With warm weather expected this weekend and the Easter holiday we expect that many people want to spend time outside. Please continue to follow governor brown’s stay home, stay safe orders. For potential visitors: please do not flock to the Oregon Coast. Hotels, motels and other short term stays are closed. All state parks, including beach access points, are closed. Boat ramps are also closed. County parks, city parks and other popular sites are also closed.”
Lincoln County Sheriff's Office says together with Oregon State Police, it's ramping up patrols around beaches this weekend.
If you violate a closure you could get a hefty fine and slapped with a misdemeanor.
What’s more, Patrol Sergeant Derek Etheridge said in the joint video message, is there are potential long-term consequences to not obeying closures.
“It’s possible that in the near future all beaches will be closed to all residents. And that takes away something that even locals are able to enjoy during this time."