By KPTV Staff
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HOOD RIVER, OR (KPTV) - This summer is turning out to be a busy one for trailheads and tourist spots in the Columbia River Gorge. Parking lots have been filled on the weekends, creating congestion and headaches for some trying to enjoy that part of the state.
At Multnomah Falls Monday, the parking lots were at capacity by mid-morning; this year, people are helping to direct traffic at the crosswalk to the lodge.
“We actually parked a bit down, we had to walk a trail to get here,” Kaylyn Mercedes, who is visiting from California, said.
“That’s probably the hardest part, you know, just trying to find a parking spot. but once you are in it is not bad at all,” Michael Kahlan, who is visiting from Texas, said.
People helping with traffic is one of several ideas that came out of a state report, the Historic Columbia River Highway Congestion and Transportation Safety Improvement Plan, which was released in June.
Some other things the report suggested was to put in place large vehicle restrictions, reduce speed limits, and satellite parking for Multnomah Falls at Benson Lake.
Renee Tkach with Friends of the Columbia Gorge says the busy parking lots is a common thing, even on the week days in the summer. They have been working with their partners like ODOT, Oregon State Parks, and the U.S. National Forest to find solutions to ease some of the congestion.
“There was a moment in time after the fire where this was all closed and we had that moment in time for about a year to rethink how does this area get used,” Tkach said.
She adds they are tossing around ideas and looking at what other places are doing to curb congestion. Some of the ideas are to start charging for parking or expanding the Columbia Gorge Express Shuttle and finding more funding for the program.
“We want to make sure that access to these beautiful places is equitable but at the same time equitable to al,l because sometimes you just can’t get in here,” Tkach said.
The Friends of the Gorge has floated the idea of shutting down the Historic Columbia River Highway and only allowing shuttles to run the route. The idea is being used in other parts of the country. Tkach says the permitting system and shuttle service at Dog Mountain has proved successful in calming overcrowding and congestion there.