PORTLAND, Ore — Public officials in Oregon and Washington have a warning for people visiting trailheads and recreation areas across the region this weekend: park illegally and you might get towed.
The U.S. Forest Service tweeted a photo Thursday showing a car being towed from a trailhead parking area in the Mount Hood National Forest, saying law enforcement agencies would ticket and tow parked vehicles that pose a danger to public safety, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Earlier in the week, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said 16 cars were towed for parking illegally at a popular stretch of the Clackamas River in Oregon.
Forest service and state park officials said Friday that while illegal parking is nothing new, it’s been a bigger problem this summer as huge crowds flock to natural areas across the region amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We don’t tow away cars lightly,” said Heather Ibsen, spokeswoman for the Mount Hood National Forest. “They’re not towing just to make a point, they’re towing to help make sure an ambulance can get through.”
Even state parks with sizable lots have been overcrowded, particularly on the north Oregon coast. Chris Havel, spokesperson for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, said it's worse than they have ever seen it.
Agencies have been telling the public to avoid recreating at peak days and hours, if possible, and to come with backup plans or go home if there’s nowhere safe to park.
Catherine Caruso, spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest, said along with illegal parking at recreation areas, rangers have also seen more litter and trash left behind, and are increasingly concerned about human-caused wildfires as campgrounds continue to fill and trailheads remain busier than ever.
“We’re really happy to have so much interest and so many people out enjoying the forests,” Caruso said. But while you’re out there, “take some personal responsibility and do the right thing.”