Oregon is expecting a record number of visits to its state parks and federal lands for the second year in a row.
Data from multiple agencies shows that the crowds began growing in 2013 and show no signs of slowing down, reported The Statesman Journal. The Columbia River Gorge and Central Oregon are the fastest-growing recreation areas, but visits to the coast, Crater Lake National Park and John Day Fossil Beds have also increased.
"The upside is that we're serving more people than ever before - and seeing more smiles than ever before," said Chris Havel, spokesman for Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. "At the same time, we're having problems keeping up with crowding, trash, and the wear and tear on parks."
The $10.8 billion industry accounts for more than 105,000 jobs, according to Travel Oregon, the state's tourism bureau, and can offer an economic boost to rural towns. But it has also resulted in damage to ecologically sensitive areas and fatal accidents.
Trouble spots in recent years include Opal Creek Scenic Area, Oneonta Gorge and Blue Pool on the McKenzie River. Oregon officials are considering a cap on the number of people allowed to visit certain destinations.
The tourism at Opal Creek "puts a tremendous amount of pressure on this fragile, natural environment," said Josh Weathers, developed recreation manager for Willamette National Forest. "From trash and human waste, fires left burning, to just trampled vegetation and soil . it's being loved to death."