The entrance to Stub Stewart State Park. Photo: Chas Hundley
While so many traditions have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, there's one that will return the day after Thanksgiving: Free parking at the 25 state parks that normally charge a $5 parking fee for day-use on Friday, November 27 from when parks open to when they close.
The closest state park that falls into this category is Stub Stewart State Park, located between Buxton and Vernonia on Highway 47. A map of all 25 locations that will have free parking is located at stateparks.oregon.gov/index.cfm?do=visit.day-use.
“We recognize that being outdoors makes us feel better and is a break from the stresses of 2020,” said Oregon Parks and Recreation Department director Lisa Sumption. “In this unconventional year, we feel it is especially important to honor this tradition as thanks to Oregonians for supporting us through our toughest times.”
Because Thanksgiving Weekend falls within the "Freeze" period enacted on Wednesday by Governor Kate Brown, visitors to the park must adhere to the social gathering rules directing that no more than six people from up to two households may gather. Face coverings in park restrooms and areas where six feet of distance cannot be maintained is also mandatory, according to OPRD.
“Following these precautions is particularly important in the coming weeks to support statewide efforts to stop the spread of the virus,” Sumption said. “When visitors prepare and care, it keeps parks safe for everyone.”
Called "Green Friday," the tradition is usually accompanied by events such as guided hikes and holiday programs, all cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. However, one other tradition not cancelled is the last Free Fishing Weekend of 2020, which also falls on November 27 and 28, the two days following Thanksgiving Day.
In a phone call with the Gales Creek Journal, Stub Stewart State Park park manager Chris Gerdes said that damage and debris from fallen trees in the park and on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail from last week's high winds should be cleaned up by Thanksgiving Day, but cautioned that should the weather turn sour and wind knock anything new down on Thanksgiving or the day after, there could be a delay in clean up due to short staffing caused by the holiday.
More than three dozen trees fell during high winds in the park and on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail last week, according to a social media post from the Friends of Stub Stewart State Park and Banks-Vernonia Rails to Trails.
"We should be in good shape," he said. "The team has been doing an amazing job keeping up," Gerdes said, noting that visitors should call the park's main line to report any downed trees at 503-324-0606.
“The pandemic challenges all of us to find new, creative ways to celebrate the holidays,” Sumption said. “We look forward to the safe return of these holiday traditions, and until then, parks are open and here for you.”