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Warrenton gives tourists 24 hours to get out of town

Overcrowing at Silver Falls State Park during the weekend has prompted the governor to close all state parks effective 5 p.m. Monday, March 23. (Oregon State Parks)
By Cindy Yingst, Monday, March 23, 2020

Tourists have 24 hours to get out of town or face arrest.

Warrenton city commissioners took the stance after thousands of people from elsewhere arrived in town Friday and Saturday, clogging highways 30, 26 and 101.

Warrenton called an emergency meeting at 5 p.m. Saturday, first issuing a state of emergency because of the COVID-19 outbreak and then taking further action to prevent those from other areas coming here on vacations and spring break or for simple recreation and endangering residents.

“This is a serious event and it’s also a major event,” Mayor Henry Balensifer said earlier in the day during a livestream broadcast. “Our top priority is doing what we need to do for the best interest of our citizens.”

It was not long after Warrenton took this action that Clatsop County and nearly every community along the Oregon Coast passed similar resolutions.

Resolution 2565, “To ensure the public health and safety of the citizens of Warrenton and to avoid unnecessary risks to hospital surge in Clatsop County,” makes the following orders:

All camping is closed at Warrenton and Hammond marinas.

All camping is closed at KOA, Fort Stevens State Park, Kampers West and Hammond Marina RV Park. An exception is made for permanent residents, camp hosts, employees and anyone living as a long-term resident of the facilities who were residents with contracts before March 11 – when the virus was declared a pandemic.

All stays in short-term rentals, home-stay lodging and B&Bs are prohibited.

All hotels within city limits are closed except for current users registered for longer than 30 days and as authorized by the county, state or federal health authorities. So long-term contractors already staying in the city’s hotels may remain.

All camping on private property, except by order of the police chief or state, is prohibited.

The resolution takes effect immediately and those affected have 24 hours to vacate.

The vote was unanimous with Balensifer, Tom Dyer, Rick Newton and Mark Baldwin at City Hall – separated by 6 feet – and Pam Ackley via telephone.

The resolution will be enforced by Warrenton Police and four officers were at City Hall for the Saturday meeting, including Chief Matt Workman.

“We’re prepared for that,” Workman told commissioners. “I’ve spoken with Sheriff Phillips and he will provide us with any additional resources as needed.”

The offense – remaining in town after the 24 hours – is a class C misdemeanor “and that is an arrestable offense,” he said.

“I would hope that the majority of the folks that are affected by this order … will cooperatively work with the city so as not to tax the limited resources we have,” City Manager Linda Engbretson said.

Officers will contact managers of the campgrounds and hotels and they’re expected to take action to clear out their facilities.

Balensifer said he’d spoken with county officials, County Commissioner Mark Kujala and state Sen. Betsy Johnson and all are aware of the city’s action and support it.

“We’re not making this decision in a vacuum.”

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