Columbia Gorge visitors reminded that closed areas remain danger - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Columbia Gorge visitors reminded that closed areas remain dangerous

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Photo: Chris Liedle 10-4-2017 Photo: Chris Liedle 10-4-2017

COLUMBIA GORGE, OR - Clear skies and warm weather bring bigger crowds to the Columbia River Gorge but visitors must honor closure points marking where conditions remain dangerous.

Trails, parks and roads operated by the U.S. Forest Service, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and the Oregon Department of Transportation remain closed by the impact of the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. These areas are still dangerous and will not open to the public until they are safe.

These emergency closures are important for two reasons: to permit areas to recover their health, and to protect public safety. Rocks, limbs, and trees continue to fall. Work crews are helping the recovery along, so in addition to natural hazards, the closed areas are active work zones. Unlawful entry into closures could cause work delays and the potential for accidental injuries.

More than 1,000 cubic yards of debris have fallen on the closed section of the Historic Columbia River Highway in the last four weeks alone. Hikers, bikers or motorists violating these closure points put themselves in danger and may be subject to fines.

The following areas are open for public recreation:

Many other recreation sites east of Bridal Veil and west of Starvation Creek State Park  on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge remain closed, including the Historic Columbia River Highway between Ainsworth and Bridal Veil. Rocks continue to fall in the area and there is no timeline yet for re-opening. Contractors and public agency staff are working to open trail segments and will issue public announcements as these areas open.

Law enforcement officials -- Multnomah County Sheriff and the Oregon State Police – may very well cite people with criminal trespass when they choose to enter a closed area. The penalty could be up to a $1,000 fine and being lodged in jail. Since September, the Forest Service has issued 65 trespass citations, not counting written or verbal warnings. Each citation carries a $280 fine.

Visit alternative destinations on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge and other options within 75 miles of Portland to help relieve the pressure on the Gorge and give it time to heal. To explore other destinations, visit Travel Oregon (http://traveloregon.com), the U.S. Forest Service (www.fs.usda.gov/crgnsa), Friends of the Columbia Gorge (http://gorgefriends.org), or other partner websites.

For the areas that are open, the U.S. Forest Service and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department remind visitors that crowding will be heavier than normal. Park only when there's room and it's safe to do so. Respect private property near public lands. More tips on how to have a safe and responsible visit to the Gorge can be found at http://ReadySetGorge.com.

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