TERREBONNE, OR -- When the Seven Wonders of Oregon national ad campaign launched in 2014, the state’s Tourism Commission wanted to get visitors and residents out exploring our natural wonders. But, at Central Oregon's local wonder, the campaign may have worked a little too well.
Park Manager Scott Brown says at only 650 acres, Smith Rock State Park is much more compact than the other six features, and it's surrounded by residential neighborhoods. "We have had some neighbors who are concerned about the parking issue. On busy days, there just isn’t any parking and people sometimes find creative ways to park and it disturbs our neighbors’ quality of life."
He says annual visitation has skyrocketed 55%, from 450,000 a year in 2011, to 700,000 in 2015. "Some of the impacts are the trails, [we] are not able to keep up with maintenance so they’re getting degraded; some negative influence on wildlife and plant populations, and just the fact that we don’t currently have enough restrooms and staff to support the visitation," Brown tells KBND News.
But, he says the Travel Oregon
ad campaign isn't solely to blame. "Seven Wonders was obviously a very successful campaign and we did see a lot of new traffic from that, and that’s part of the rapid increase in visitation here. It’s also because the entire Central Oregon area, and all of the recreational opportunities out here, are growing rapidly. The concern that we’re having now is that the park is tending to get overcrowded." To try and ease that overcrowding, Brown urges locals to consider visiting during off-peak times, like weekdays and non-holidays. And, he asks everyone to respect the park, native wildlife and the neighbors.
Coming up on Monday, KBND News will take an in-depth look at Smith Rock's popularity, in the first installment of our Take Five series
on the Seven Wonders of Oregon.