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Fees suspended at Oregon and Washington state parks on New Year’s Day

Courtesy: Oregon State Parks Department
Hikers go on a first day of the year adventure at Cottonwood Canyon.

Oregon's fee break is an attempt to encourage more people to head outdoors to start 2023. Washington's fee-free day was put in place in 2011, when that state started charging for vehicle access to its parks and other state recreation sites.

The Oregon State Parks Department is suspending fees on New Year’s Day as a way to get more people to visit. Washington, where a parking pass is typically required to drive into any state park, is also suspending fees as part of that state’s First Day Hikes program.

Oregon has about 250 parks; admission to most is free, but 25 charge parking fees for drivers. Those fees are being dropped for the day, and rangers will lead educational adventures.

For example, people can join a two-mile hike at L. L. Stub Stewart State Park, south of Vernonia. Boomscooter Trail is renowned for wildlife viewing or just enjoying the outdoors.

Oregon parks department spokesman Jason Resch said he’s headed to Tryon State Park on Jan. 1. He sees getting outdoors as somewhat spiritual.

“It’s a first-day adventure. Or maybe a New Year’s resolution,” said Resch.

“Whether it’s just getting outside more, or experiencing something new … To me that is a pretty big part of why I love it so much.”

Courtesy Oregon State Parks Department
Hikers assemble for a walk on the first day of the year at Fort Stevens State Park.

Washington’s First Day Hikes program was launched in 2011, when that state introduced the Discover Pass for vehicle access to state parks and other state recreation sites. The pass costs $30 annually or $10 for a one-day visit, except on a dozen designated no-fee days each year.

Oregon’s parks department is tweaking its message slightly this year, calling the events “First Day Adventures,” rather than “First Day Hikes.” Agency leaders want to make sure everyone feels welcome.

While first-day adventurers are welcome to go snowshoeing or skiing, no special equipment is needed for the ranger-led events. But many state parks will be cold and snowy. Visitors should dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes and bring water.

A camera or binoculars is also good for viewing wildlife.

Fees for overnight camping and other services remain in place.

Courtesy Oregon State Parks Department
First day of the year hike at L. L. Stub Stewart State Park.

Copyright 2023 Oregon Public Broadcasting