The state of Oregon has a rich history of preserving its natural resources and investing in recreational opportunities. All our ocean beaches are preserved for public use, and major movements in the 1960s and ’70s by Oregon politicians saw large swaths of land throughout the state either purchased or transferred to public ownership to protect wildlife and create opportunities for recreational use.
In the just-begun 2023 legislative session in Salem, lawmakers have introduced several bills that could pay dividends for outdoor enthusiasts in the future should they survive the next six months of committee meetings, negotiations, and budget talks to be approved. A rosy economic forecast and new fiscal biennium coming up means there may be plenty of money for projects that help residents and visitors access some of Oregon’s most awe-inspiring places.
Here are a few of the current proposals.
Senate Bill 76
This bill would see $3 million invested in improving the Oregon State Parks Department’s historical museums and building new facilities. This would mean more funding to improve services and facilities such as Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day and the lighthouse at Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site.
Senate Bill 679/House Bill 2191
The Oregon Coast Trail stretches 425 miles from the mouth of the Columbia River at its northern terminus to the California border in the south. It’s a splendorous trail that represents paradise for thru-hikers and day-trippers alike—at least for sections through coastal forests and along ocean beaches. But nearly 40 percent of the “trail” uses public roadways. This bill would dedicate $1 million to new trail connection that take hikers off potentially dangerous roads.
House Bill 2011
The United States has seen a marked increase in the number of attacks on parks and recreation employees by visitors in recent years. Whether it’s due to stress caused by the pandemic or a general decrease in the amount of patience people have with each other, rangers in Oregon are reporting a rise in physical altercations with park guests, in many cases for simply doing their job by enforcing state laws and park rules. HB 2011 is a bipartisan effort to increase criminal penalties for those who get violent with parks employees by making the infraction punishable by a minimum of five years in prison and $125,000 fine.
House Bill 2835
The legislature would ask the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to initiate a pilot program awarding grants to build recreational fishing facilities within urban growth boundaries. Imagine: the local pond in your neighborhood gets a cleanup and new dock built so you can take the kids fishing after school.
House Bill 2839
Travel Oregon already supports the efforts of local tourism boards across the state in applying for grants and navigating land-use laws when building new facilities. This law would formalize and streamline those relationships to boost the state’s tourism economy even further.
House Bill 2910
Awards $3.5 million to the Center for Outdoor Recreation Economy at Oregon State University to support efforts in workforce development, assistance grants for communities rebuilding after wildfires, and aiding entrepreneurs in the outdoor recreation industry with things like researching and prototyping new products.