Why new picnic areas?
In the early days of auto touring, picnicking was a popular activity for families visiting Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge. The Forest Service and Oregon State Parks responded with picnic areas that dotted the old loop highway, providing a variety of places to stop and spend the day in the outdoors. Most of the picnic areas were located directly on the highway, and featured short trails to overlooks and nearby streams, as well as rustic picnic tables, water faucets and rest rooms.
Many of these old picnic areas were lost in the 1950s and 1960s, as highways were widened or bypassed with new routes. The Mount Hood National Park proposal would reverse this trend, and rebuild new picnic areas in several spots throughout the park. The focus of these new site would be on welcoming new visitors to the area, making trips to the mountain family-friendly, with convenient, easy places to spend time in the outdoors.
In this way, the picnic areas are an important part of introducing kids to nature and an active outdoor life with easy, safe activities in the forest. Some of the proposed site are also trailheads for family-friendly trails. In this way, new pinic areas would be part of a larger effort to reverse the trend of children losing contact with nature and inadequate physical activity.
The picnic areas would also focus on elderly and disabled visitors who may not be able to take part in more active park recreation, but could explore short walking paths and scenic overlooks. For these visitors, the picnic areas would double as interpretive sites, with special environmental or cultural themes for each area. As our population continues to age, designing for less able-bodied visitors will be an important element in how the new national park is designed.