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Oregon State Parks assess damage from wildfires

Over 20 state parks have been closed since September 7th, due to damage from high winds and fire proximity.

Posted: Sep 20, 2020 7:10 PM
Updated: Sep 20, 2020 11:59 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Devastating wildfires that continue to sweep through Oregon have burned about 900 acres of state park land.

"We're still going through and seeing what was exactly impacted after both the windstorms and the wildfires," said Jo Niehaus of the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department.

Niehaus said these parks face compounded challenges from wind storms during the second week of September, on top of staffing shortages during COVID-19.

"Getting our parks to where they were before and reopening them with a limited number of staff is going to be a challenge," Niehaus said.

As of Sunday, 24 parks remained closed statewide. Each closed park is being assessed for damage and scheduling repairs.

OPRD is still assessing damage around the state, but released this preliminary list:

Silver Falls:
125 acres burned on the SE part of the park. Contained at this time.

Detroit Lake State Recreation Area:
Minor damage along some campground loops closer to the highway.
Loss of one water storage tank.
40 acres burned.

North Santiam State Recreation Area:
120 acres burned.
Loss of some structures.

Bonnie Lure State Recreation Area:
40 acres burned.

Collier Memorial State Park:
400 acres burned.
Damage to historic museum and some equipment.
Loss of one historic cabin, wood shed, and host trailer.

Wallowa Lake State Park:
Wind damage to dock.

Devil’s Lake State Park:
No fire damage, but many trees down.

Other coastal parks with trees down include Munson Creek Falls State Natural Site, Sitka Sedge State Natural Area, Cape Lookout State Park, Beverly Beach State Park, William M. Tugman and many areas of the Oregon Coast Trail are reported to have trees down as well.

When each of the closed parks will be able to reopen remains unknown.

Environmental journalist Grant McOmie said it could take a long time before Oregon's travel and tourism industry recovers from the disaster. However, he said now is a good time of reflection.

"[We] really need to take stock of what we have here, the diversity of what we have here within a two-hour range, to be able to reach so many varied ecosystems," McOmie said. "It'll come back. It always comes back, but it's gonna require time, so be patient."

Niehaus said the state parks are largely unscathed and there was minimal damage to well-known landmarks and recreation sites.

"We were really lucky in the grand scheme of things," said Niehaus.

Click here to check the status of a state park in your area.

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