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These eight Oregon State Parks are offering free weekend cabin and yurt stays to encourage underrepresented populations to camp more

Dakota Kim  – February 11, 2020 | Updated February 25, 2020

In an effort to increase access and awareness for underrepresented campers, Oregon State Parks are offering free yurts and cabins this summer for disabled, LGBTQ, and POC campers. Though summer seems far away, groups will need to plan ahead, applying by 5pm on Friday, March 6; they will be notified in early April.

“Surveys show some segments of Oregon’s population do not camp or visit state parks, or at least not in numbers that parallel their population,” said Cailin O’Brien-Feeney, director of the Oregon Office of Outdoor Recreation, citing findings from the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. “In partnering with community-based organizations, we hope together we can make the outdoors more accessible to these populations.”  

The Park Explorer Series allows organizations to apply for one of eight small group camping trips for communities underrepresented in outdoor recreation. Each org will be granted five cabins or yurts for a two-night summer weekend trip at one of eight parks. Organizations will be responsible for selecting their participants and need to demonstrate their commitment to underrepresented communities, as well as their ability to prepare participants for camping. Preference will be given to groups that show they plan to continue supporting participants’ love of the outdoors even after the program has ended.

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“So much research shows that spending time outside corresponds with better mental and physical health,” Oregon Parks and Recreation director Lisa Sumption said. “We need to do what we can as an agency to ensure all Oregonians have equitable access to state parks and the associated health benefits. Parks are for everyone, and this small gesture eliminates a very real barrier—cost—from the equation.”

The parks included in the program are below.

Beverly Beach State Park

Where: Between Newport and Depoe Bay

What: This forest-sheltered campground is a hop and skip from the beach, which connects via a walkway under Highway 101.

Cape Lookout State Park

Where: Near Tillamook

What: Located an hour and a half west of Portland, this shaded campground is set in a lush old-growth forest alongside the coast.

Champoeg State Heritage Area

Where: Near Newberg

What: Fancy a camping trip in the heart of wine country? This park, situated in Willamette Valley along the Willamette River, offers paved trails for walking and biking through the park’s forest, prairie, and wetlands.

L.L. Stub Stewart State Park

Where: Buxton

What: Just 34 miles west of Portland, the park contains more than 25 miles of wooded trails for hiking and mountain biking, plus three disc golf courses at multiple skill levels.

LaPine State Park

Where: LaPine

What: Located in a subalpine forest a half-hour south of Bend, this quiet park alongside the Deschutes River is popular for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and floating. The day-use area includes a beach and swim area marked off by buoys.

William M. Tugman State Park

Where: Between Reedsport and Coos Bay

What: Not far from the Oregon Dunes, Tugman’s lakeside campground is a great place for fishing, swimming, canoeing, sailing, and boating. A trail around the south end of the lake provides opportunities to see osprey, crane, eagle, and deer.

Silver Falls State Park

Where: Sublimity

What: Silver Falls has several hikes to choose from that lead to the park’s spectacular waterfalls, and another 35 miles of backcountry trails for hikes, mountain bikes, and horses. The park’s Nature Play Area, a playground built into the natural forested environment, is also a draw.

Prineville Reservoir State Park

Where: Prineville

What: This high-desert campground on Prineville Reservoir features fishing, a beach and swim area, and all manner of water sports. The wide-open night sky is ideal for stargazing.