The word came down last night from Governor Brown’s office that Deschutes County is approved for phase-one reopening starting May 15. This news follows other recent, limited re-openings of public lands like Pilot Butte and Smith Rock State Park.
Much as we might enjoy it, this is not an invitation to open the floodgates for out-of-town guests as we race to the trailheads and greet our hiking buddies with hugs and a good old-fashioned face licking. Caution is still crucial, and if we screw this up, we risk being sent back to lockdown like naughty, disease-ridden children.
That would be a bummer, since playing outdoors is one of the best things about Bend. Here are 4 tips to help us all avoid messing this up.
Remind those out-of-town friends to stay home
While select Deschutes county businesses are cleared to start opening under phase-one restrictions, now is not the time for out-of-town guests to visit. Governor Brown’s stay-home order remains in place, restricting non-essential or recreational travel.
Same goes for the City of Bend’s lodging order, which restricts lodging to essential travelers only. Sadly, mountain biking and skiing aren’t considered essential.
In other words, this reopening isn’t a blessing to call up friends in Portland to come for a visit. For now, we’re urging everyone to stick close to their own communities to slow the spread of COVID-19.
For more info, including all the latest updates, keep an eye on Visit Bend’s COVID-19 page.
Be smart with the hiking
As thrilled as I was to see Pilot Butte State Park reopening for hikers, you couldn’t pay me to go there right now. Sound weird?
The thing is, we’ve all been cooped up a long time. Caged animals don’t respond in the most rational ways, and odds are good we’ll see hoards of folks flocking to these trails and throwing social distancing rules out the window. That’s not a risk I feel like taking.
While I urge everyone to get out and play, be smart about it. If you show up and the trailhead parking lot is full, move on. Find another hiking trail or another time to visit. Weekdays are a safer bet than weekends, and off-peak hours are a nice time to try.
Also, keep in mind that closures still apply to many trails and wilderness areas, including the Deschutes or Willamette National Forests.
Consider visiting a local park or trying a socially-distanced activity like disc golf. Bend Parks and Rec is doing a bang-up job building new trails and making it easier for folks to recreate safely while scoring some fresh air. Check out this roundup of parks and make yourself a bucket list of new ones you’d like to explore.
Keep up the good work
One reason Deschutes County was cleared so early is because we’ve done a great job flattening the curve and not overwhelming our hospitals and first responders. Now, we have to keep it up.
Continue practicing good hygiene with frequent handwashing. Don’t go out in big groups, and keep restricting your contact to only your immediate family.
Keep six feet of distance between you and your fellow outdoor recreation enthusiasts. When shopping or grabbing takeout at Bend restaurants, follow all their guidelines for safety protocol and proper distancing.
Keep tabs on the CDC recommendations for being out in public, and maybe tattoo a few on your forearm (on second thought, scratch that….tattoo parlors aren’t in this phase of opening).
Yes, it’s annoying to wear a mask, but think of it as doing your part to protect your fellow citizens. In Bend, we look out for one another. We’ve done an awesome job already, so let’s keep at it.
Support Bend business, but do it safely
Bend businesses are doing a terrific job communicating their status on their social media pages, so that’s a great place to start if you’re wondering whether your favorite brewery or Bend retailer is opening and in what capacity.
Bend businesses have pledged to adhere to health guidelines as part of this reopening plan, so it’s up to all of us to follow those rules.
Want to support Bend businesses while continuing to hunker down at home? SOSBend.com offers a perfect opportunity to pledge your support by buying gift certificates for local businesses.
Above all, be kind, cautious, and friendly with your fellow community members and the employees of businesses you visit. We’re all a bit frazzled, and a smile goes a long way, even if it’s behind a mask.