Campers may find more than just serenity
June 25, 1997
For campers in search of a little peace and quiet in the great Southern Oregon outdoors, the biggest threat to their plans in area campgrounds is rowdy neighbors.
“The biggest disturbance is a group of teenagers in the next site who stay up too late and get loud,” says Andrea Andresen of the Crater Lake National Park chief ranger’s office.
And campers’ biggest fear is bears, she says, although usually not until rangers have confiscated coolers that are left outside unattended.
“They’re told when they check in to be very careful with their food, but they don’t listen most of the time,” she says.
Ranger Anna Clark of the Valley of the Rogue State Park agrees: “Our biggest threat is Yogi Bear in the campsites taking coolers, which happens about twice a year.”
And even though the park is in the I-5 corridor, human violence is rare. “Not that it couldn’t happen because things like that can happen anywhere,” she says.
Anywhere includes Mount Hood National Forest. Two Marine sergeants were arraigned Monday in an alleged attack on a couple camping at Clear Lake there.
At Valley of the Rogue, rangers call for help from outside law enforcement agencies no more than two or three times a year, usually on holiday weekends, Clark says.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, staff at the Cove Palisades State Park outside Madras had to intervene when a fist fight broke out over a parking spot in the day use area. Four people were arrested.
“Particularly on a big weekend when everything’s full and crowded, it happens,” says Steve Waterman of the Rogue River National Forest, who categorizes Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day as the big weekends.
Unlike the national forests, where people can pitch a tent practically anywhere they want, state parks closely regulate where people can camp and offer close supervision. In most state campgrounds, people share their stay with live-in campground hosts, 24-hour camp patrols, state police patrol units and cadets in state police training.
“The problems arise when a few of them (campers) decide that they are the most important human beings in the world and that everyone else needs to stay out of their way,” said Dan Lucas, central Oregon area assistant manager for the state’s $30 million-a-year parks system.
Sgt. John Atkins of the Jackson County sheriff’s office hopes people won’t over-react to the Clear Lake case.
“We have crimes in our homes and we have crimes in our cars on the streets,” he says. “My best advice is that we want to continue to be civilized and respect our neighbors, whether in a camping site or in our residences.”