Shall Oregon state parks welcome drones within their borders? This is a hot-button issue, quite fiercely debated for more than two years now. OPRD’s first effort at rule-making strongly favored out-of-state drone users. There were no conservation representatives on the rule-making committee. Controversy erupted. The Parks Commission directed staff to start over, and new rule-making is inching along. Astonishing but true: the Parks and Recreation Department is not even considering a ban on drone use, as are in effect in at least four other state park systems around the country!
It is clear to ORCA, and to many other conservation organizations, that drones have no place in the parks — the rest of the state is open to them; what is the need for drone pilots to overfly the relatively few acres of parks? Our state parks receive a staggering number of visitors per year: some 53 million people. Most flock to the parks for their qualities of quiet, serenity, rugged natural beauty, and an escape from the commonplace encroachments of technology. An extremely tiny minority of park users are drone flyers — and yet OPRD wants to accommodate these users, whose preferred recreation degrades the enjoyment of everyone else.
Currently, OPRD has released proposed drone criteria and generic maps. You can review them here.
Submit comments on drone use in state parks via OPRD’s online portal above, or via email.
Though the agency wants comments on the criteria and maps specifically, people can comment on whatever aspect of the question they wish. Please consider raising the critical question of why OPRD is encouraging and welcoming drone use at all. It is also relevant to question how OPRD would ever enforce its rules on drones flying here and there; rules such as these are extremely easy to break, and enforcement will be close to zero. If drone use is to be allowed for any specific purpose, such as filming or ecological research, a permit must be required; recreational drone use, in ORCA’s opinion, must not be allowed at all. We also note that the current proposal, with a few generic maps and vague criteria, is definitely not enough for public involvement. The public needs to be able to review and comment on proposed takeoff and landing area maps for every state park, not just a generic sample, before rule-making is finalized.