There never has been a more important time to be good neighbor. On my own street in Hood River, I’ve seen my neighbors sharing groceries and checking in on one another to offer a helping hand, all while keeping our safe distance.
In a time of unprecedented uncertainty, it is a relief to know that we are all looking out for one another. Whatever happens, we neighbors all share this patch of ground along Eugene Street, and we all need to work together to keep our neighborhood and our town as safe as possible. And that's why Friends of the Columbia Land Trust is closing its Mosier Plateau and Lyle Cherry Orchard preserves, effective today.
Across the Gorge, neighbors are stepping up to do whatever they can to help their community through this challenging time. Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust is a critical neighbor in two of these communities—Mosier, Oregon, and Lyle, Washington. Just outside town, our Mosier Plateau and Lyle Cherry Orchard preserves offer public hiking trails with sweeping views of the Columbia Gorge. Both trails are among the best in the Gorge, and tend to attract their largest crowds during the spring wildflower season. Any other time I would encourage everyone to visit these places and enjoy a spring day outdoors.
But this is no ordinary time, and we need to first and foremost look out for the health and safety of our neighbors. Unfortunately, under the circumstances, this means closing access to the Mosier Plateau and Lyle Cherry Orchard trails to the public effective immediately.
People at crowded trailheads, parking areas, and overlooks have little opportunity to follow proper social distance guidance. Local land managers are faced with increased health threats while cleaning and maintaining public lands throughout the Gorge. But most importantly, keeping these trails open at this time could present a very real risk to our neighbors.
Moving forward, we will follow the guidance of health officials and work with community partners to determine when it is time to re-open trails on our public preserves. Like every one of us, I hope that is sooner rather than later. But for now all we can do is keep the neighborhood safe. We all need to give Gorge trails a break right now. And staying home is the best act of stewardship we can do as a community.
A resident of Hood River, Dan Bell is the director of the Friends of Columbia Gorge Land Trust. Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust works to preserve scenic Gorge landscapes, safeguard sensitive habitats, steward vital Gorge lands, and strengthen Gorge community connections.
Photo: Looking east from Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust's Lyle Cherry Orchard preserve. (Ben Mitchell)