Crowded campsites, high demand causes fights, ‘camp pirates’

SALEM, Ore. — Some Oregon park officials say high demand for overcrowded campsites is leading to arguments, fights and even so-called “campground hijackers.”

Brian Carroll of Linn County Parks and Recreation said park rangers have had to mediate this summer as would-be campers compete for first-come, first-served campsites at Sunnyside County Park, the Statesman-Journal.

“People were literally fighting over campsites,” Carroll said. “What we’ve experienced this year is definitely a general level of heightened frustration and anxiety among people who can’t get their campsites. There seems to be less general common courtesy.

Tensions have also escalated over reserved campsites, with some leisure enthusiasts falsely claiming sites already reserved by ripping out reservation tags and replacing them with their own, earning them the nickname “campsite pirates”. . The original parties end up angry and confused when they arrive to find their campsite occupied. The practice isn’t common, but it’s happening more than before, Carroll said.

“In the past it was extremely rare,” he said. “Have there been any disputes? Yeah, you know it’s happened before. But like I said, not on the scale we saw this year.

Sunnyside County Park isn’t the only place to experience such misfortunes. Earlier this year, the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation said it would seek legislation to give rangers additional protections due to the rising level of assaults and harassment targeting rangers.

“Traditionally about 1% of our visitors really struggle to comply with rules and regulations,” said Dennis Benson, recreation manager for Deschutes National Forest. “Now we have more than 10% of the population who don’t follow or adhere to rules, regulations, that sort of thing, which lends itself to more problematic behaviors on public lands.”

Oregon‘s state park system has only opened three new campgrounds since 1972, although the state’s population has grown significantly.

Last year, the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation set records for its total number of visitors – an estimated 53.6 million day visits and 3.02 million overnight campers . This year’s numbers are about the same, said Chris Havel, associate director of the state Department of Parks and Recreation.

“This summer we’ve been extremely busy, with 96% to 98% capacity, which basically means you might find a night here or there, but basically it’s all taken,” Havel said. “What we’re noticing again this year is that a lot of people are new to camping and the outdoors in general. In other words, the trend we saw starting during the pandemic of people dating for the first time continues, and that means we’re going to keep busy.

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