In recent days, reports of crowded trailheads in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area have been reported by numerous news outlets with accompanying concerns expressed by community leaders and Gorge officials.
On a beautiful day, my first instinct is to drive to the Gorge for a hike. But I’m not doing that.
We all have a role to play as responsible stewards for the Columbia Gorge. And those of us who live in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area owe it to our fellow citizens who live in Gorge communities to give Gorge trails a break in the coming days.
We must all support federal, state, and local health officials by following current social distancing guidance. We also must support the efforts by Gorge officials and public land managers to keep both Gorge trails and their communities safe.
This weekend, according to numerous reports received from Gorge residents and community leaders, a number of trailheads and other recreation sites around the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area were filled with crowds and long bathroom lines. Crowded trailheads just increase the burden for local land managers responsible for cleaning and maintaining public lands throughout the Gorge. And accidents or falls from visitors on the trails could put Gorge search and rescue groups at greater risk and increase strains on local hospitals.
By all means, get out and enjoy the sunshine today. But please consider doing so within the vicinity of your home. Your community will thank you and the Gorge will thank you.
Kevin Gorman is executive director of Friends of the Columbia Gorge, a conservation organization with over 7,000 members dedicated to protecting, preserving, and stewarding the Gorge for future generations.
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