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As Pilot Butte, Lake Billy Chinook boat ramp reopen, few are on hand at first

Prineville Reservoir boat ramp also reopened

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- After being closed for about a month and a half, eight Oregon state parks are now open for limited access, including Pilot Butte in Bend (but no vehicles) and the Cove Palisades boat ramp at Lake Billy Chinook near Culver.

Even with that announcement, paired with beautiful weather Wednesday, the parking lots at both locations were close to empty on reopening day.

"I just almost couldn't believe there were not a whole bunch of folks up here getting ready to fish," said Loren Anderson, as he was hopping into his boat at Lake Billy Chinook.

At Pilot Butte, the people who did show up were thankful to be able to exercise there again.

"I've been missing it, a lot. So we wanted to be here on the day it reopened," said Bend resident Nikki Parnell.

Marla Soury, another Bend resident, said, "It is the best thing that's happened in a while for me."

Anderson visited Lake Billy Chinook Wednesday with his friend, Leroy Knopsnyder, both from Redmond. It was the first time they went fishing at the lake since early March.

"We were pretty excited yesterday to see that we'd have the opportunity today to come out and fish."

The only other people at the lake boat ramp were Ramone Thomas and his wife Adrienne Merrifield from Warm Springs. They got out on the water at 8 a.m. to fish.

While they were excited to do so, Thomas said there should be some extra safety measures in place.

"Hand sanitizer stations at all these boat ramps, and throughout the park by all the bathrooms and maybe by the picnic tables,” Thomas said.

Officials with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department did set a few guidelines to ensure people's safety at all eight parks that reopened Wednesday.

That includes staying home if you're sick; if you do go, choosing a park that's close to where you live; bringing any supplies you might need for a short trip, like food and water; only visiting with members of your household.

Anderson and Knopsnyder did not follow that last rule, but they said they're doing their best to socially distance themselves.

"We took two different trucks up. I took my truck up -- it's already parked,” Anderson said. “Leroy is going to be taking his truck, putting the boat in the water, and then he'll park it. We haven't been together in a confined place."

"We're going to keep our 5 to 6 feet of distance in the boat," Anderson added.

Officials also advised if a park is crowded, leave and come back another time. If there is space at the park, they ask that visitors wear face masks and stand at least six feet apart from people who are not in their household.

Bend resident Linda Murphy told NewsChannel 21 people were socially distancing on the Pilot Butte trail Wednesday.

"People are, you know -- they give you your six feet, either I move over or they move over,” Murphy said. “I've felt people here in Bend have been really responsible."

The other Oregon parks which reopened with limited access Wednesday are: Tryon Creek in Portland, Willamette Mission north of Keizer, Mongold boat ramp at Detroit Lake, State Capitol State Park in Salem, the Prineville Reservoir boat ramp near Prineville and Joseph Stewart boat ramp on Lost Creek Lake near Shady Cove.

Officials said limited day use will slowly return to other state parks starting May 11.

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Max Goldwasser

Max Goldwasser is a reporter and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Max here.


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