Finding options for recreation is challenging

Signs were posted in the parking lot of the Nye Beach turnaround in Newport this week, one of the many areas now closed to public access. (Photo by Cheri Brubaker)

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LINCOLN COUNTY — Cones, tape and barricades were erected to block the entrances of local, state and federal parks, including many beach access points, in response to Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order to “stay home, save lives.”

“The only guidance that is contained in the governor’s executive order is stay home unless it’s necessary to travel, and that is our message, too,” said Chris Havel of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s communications and research division. “So the necessary for travel part, it usually means essential work, groceries, medical business, that sort of thing.

“Nothing in the order to close state parks affects the beach,” Havel explained. “It affects state-managed beach accesses, but it doesn’t affect the beach itself. We have made no decision to close any beach.”

Havel qualified, “We’ll revisit that decision if there’s a problem. If people show that they’re still congregating, not maintaining social distance, traveling in large numbers for pleasure, that sort of thing, then we’ll have to revisit that decision.”

The executive order is clear about closing down recreational sites in order to discourage travel, Havel said, “and that’s what we’ve done. The purpose in closing beach accesses is not to make people find a different way to the beach, it’s to encourage people to stay home.”

The message was the same from Newport Police Department.

“Our general response is to respect closed areas and practice social distancing,” Police Chief Jason Malloy said.

Newport Parks and Recreation Director Mike Cavanaugh recognized the challenge. “We’re working on programming,” he said, adding he hopes to share information as early as next week.

Havel said, “If you need to get out for a walk, most people live in an area where they can walk out their door, take a walk, get some air, stretch and then go back home.”

Newport City Recorder and Special Projects Director Peggy Hawker concurred, offering, “We want to encourage people to get outside and walk and bicycle in locations that are not closed to the public, and to maintain social distancing standards of 6 feet from other people, while walking and biking.”

Havel noted, “It’s going to be hard for the time that we need to do it. Hopefully, that time is as short as possible. But what makes that time short is everybody complying.

“We’ll get through this,” Havel said. “We have to do it.”

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