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National Parks will be free during coronavirus outbreak

Entrance fees will be waived at all national park sites that remain open.
Officials at Crater Lake are warning visitors to leave the drones at home. (Photo: ZACH URNESS/Statesman Journal)

OREGON, USA — National parks in Oregon and across the country will temporarily be free for all visitors, offering Americans easier access to natural spaces during the coronavirus outbreak.

Entrance fees will be waived at all national park sites that remain open, the National Park Service announced Wednesday, effective until further notice.

“This small step makes it a little easier for the American public to enjoy the outdoors in our incredible National Parks,” Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in a news release. ”Our vast public lands that are overseen by the Department offer special outdoor experiences to recreate, embrace nature and implement some social distancing.”

In Oregon, that means free access to Crater Lake National Park, the John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon Caves National Monument and the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. In Washington, people can also visit Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park and several others.

But while most parks remain open, some park facilities have closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. At Crater Lake, the Steel Visitor Center has closed, and all ranger-led snowshoe have been canceled. The Oregon Caves has canceled all cave tours and closed the main visitor center. The Lewis and Clark visitor center is also closed.

Visitors should also anticipate shuttered restrooms, restaurants and other facilities at national parks, and plan accordingly. Some seasonal closures are also still in place.

Even in nature, people should remember to follow recommended public health practices including frequent hand washing and social distancing. Anyone who feels sick should stay home.

For those healthy enough to travel, the national parks are a good way to find relaxation in what has been an extraordinarily stressful time.

This article was originally published by Oregonian/Oregonlive, one of more than a dozen news organizations throughout the state sharing their coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to help inform Oregonians about this evolving health issue.

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