What started as a quiet rule making effort to establish Oregon Parks authority and some level of control over drone use in state parks has evolved into a more lengthy and heavily debated issue. Drones have proliferated in use among visitors to Oregon’s outdoor public spaces providing both exciting access to monitoring and media of Oregon’s most beloved spaces but also an increase in user conflict, wildlife disturbance and safety concerns. While there are plenty of rules regarding other motorized activities in parks, drones haven't made the list making this a relatively un-regulated activity in parks. Recent legislation, (SB 102, 2021), provided statutory authority to Oregon Parks and Recreation, now playing "catch up" to establish rules and regulate the activity - and they need to hear from you!
After public demand, Oregon State Parks has extended their comment period regarding new rules for drone take-off and landings within State Parks and along the ocean shore until Friday April 15. You still have a chance to comment. Your voice is critical to manage drone use to preserve the integrity of our natural resources, minimize existing user conflicts and provide safe opportunities for this new, rapidly growing, use.
Email comments by April 15, 2022 to OPRD at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Surfrider Foundation chapters are currently supporting two recommendations. The first, and our primary recommendation limits drone use in all parks but creates a map of allowed take-off and landing zones. This approach is consistent with that of many other states (CO, TX, VA, CA, etc.) and allows for new drone activity while protecting what we know to be most valued by park visitors. As drone use continues to grow this (prohibit except for allowed areas) approach will be more and more critical in managing the public’s expectation for a natural experience in our parks. This approach offers for a more simplified management and enforcement scenario that is cautionary and protective of existing uses, wildlife and natural resources while allowing for a new use with drones where we clearly understand and can effectively manage and permit it’s activity. Read:
Currently, the inverse of our recommendation is proposed by OPRD - ubiquitous drone use in all state parks, with a map of prohibition zones. The currently proposed rule is likely to create a much more piecemeal and inconsistent approach through prohibition zones that are both seasonally and geographically inconsistent and confusing to the public. If uses continue to grow to a rate of extreme impact to existing users, wildlife and natural resources, this "wide-open" drone use will become more and more challenging to regulate as it infringes on more established personal freedoms. Under this scenario, Surfrider Foundation would support the ocean shore and adjacent parks be wholly included in the prohibition zone. From user conflicts to endangered species and federal consistency, we think there is very good evidence to support this broad prohibition zone and we are committed to pursuing its inclusion in the prohibition area. While we believe there is a place for drone use along the ocean shore (even think it's necessary in some cases!), like other motorized activities, we believe permitting and regulation of allowable areas is more responsible than a wide-open approach.
Let Oregon Parks and Recreation here from you by this Friday and let them know which way you fly on drone use in Oreogn's State Parks!