[Central Point, Oregon] — April 9, 2020, Along with state and federal recreation providers, Jackson County closed all parks to public use on March 23, 2020 in order to comply with Governor Kate Brown’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” order. Jackson County Park staff and the Jackson County Board of Commissioners’ office have received several calls regarding the closures as many people look to recreate outdoors with improving weather. “Public health officials are asking people to stay home as much as possible at this critical point in this crisis, with the hope that staying away from our parks for a short time will open things back up sooner rather than later,” says Steve Lambert, Jackson County Parks Program Manager. “While sitting fishing on a lake may seem harmless, it goes against the Governor's order to ‘minimize travel, other than essential travel to or from a home, residence, or workplace.’”
The “Stay Home, Save Lives” order specifies that essential travel is only for obtaining or providing food, shelter, essential consumer needs, education, health care, or emergency services; for essential business and government services; and for the care of family members, household members, elderly persons, minors, and dependents.
With the summer-like weather this week, there have numerous instances of people moving barricades that are blocking parking areas and heading to the water in large groups. In recent evenings, neighbors near Emigrant Lake have called law enforcement to report large gatherings of up to 80 individuals enjoying the weather and ignoring the orders to limit travel only for emergency purposes. “Any other time we would be happy to give these folks a place to have a little fun,” says Lambert. “But, right now, we want people to stay at home as we all want to get through this crisis as soon as possible.”
Beyond Governor Brown’s stay-at-home order, the Jackson County Parks Program currently lacks the staff to maintain the parks and clean the restrooms. The Jackson County Parks Program does not receive property tax support and is heavily reliant upon user fees. As such, the parks closures forced the program to lay off most of its staff, as was the case for many other tourism-related businesses. Presently, only a small team of Jackson County Parks staff remains to provide minimal maintenance so the parks will be ready to reopen as soon as possible and to assist in the county-wide emergency response. Lambert adds, “As soon as we are given the go ahead from our public health officials and the Governor, we will proceed with reopening our parks. This will not be an easy transition, but we will work to get facilities opened and operational as soon as we can. In the end, we want people in our parks as much as they want to be there. Providing a place for fun is what we do!”