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Oregon, Washington Responding To Overcrowding In Some Outdoor Areas

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The north Oregon coast crowds have been overwhelming the state park sites this summer with highway traffic jams, illegal parking and overflowing trash bins amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon Department of Transportation and other local agencies on the Oregon coast are teaming up to tackle the issues, the parks department announced Friday.

Key among their efforts will be increased enforcement of illegal parking, the agencies said, including ticketing “unsafely parked cars” and towing vehicles when needed, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Drivers may receive tickets of $115 to $250 for illegal parking, the parks department said, and would need to pay for the cost of towing. Cars are usually towed to the nearest town with tow service.

“As has been true since March, we’re usually left with the ‘least bad’ option when it comes to managing a huge crowd of people,” state parks spokesman Chris Havel said.

No official crowd numbers have been released from this summer, although park officials have been sounding the alarm for months, as anecdotal reports pour in from rangers and visitors on the north coast that weekends have consistently reached “holiday level” crowds.

In Washington, people have been cramming themselves into Lake Cushman recreation area on the Olympic Peninsula, prompting closures, The Seattle Times reported.

The U.S. Forest Service said this week the roads allowing public access to the Mason County lake, day spots, trails and the Staircase entrance to Olympic National Park will be closed starting Saturday, for safety and health reasons.

A huge increase in visits to the area recently resulted in gridlock on the narrow road and hazardous conditions in which emergency vehicles could not respond to requests for help, Forest Service officials said in a statement.

“The extreme numbers of people recreating at Lake Cushman are creating unsafe conditions and degrading the experience for everyone. No one wants to be stuck in a 6-mile-long traffic jam on a narrow, gravel road with no way to turn around,” said District Ranger Yewah Lau.

Lau said there will be zero public access to Lake Cushman until the weather cools and visitation returns to a manageable level.

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