Park officials warn heavy use and erosion are wearing down Gorge - KPTV - FOX 12

Park officials warn heavy use and erosion are wearing down Gorge trails

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Popular hiking trails in the Columbia Gorge are in danger of being "loved to death," suffering from overuse and heavy erosion.

According to Dawn Sender, Trail Crew Supervisor with the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, the trail system is at or over capacity, with damage being done faster than her crew can fix it.

"We have one of our wonderful trails, Oneonta, which I'm sure a lot of people have heard of, we could spend an entire summer working on Oneonta," Stender said.

At Wahclella Falls, another popular trail only 40 minutes from downtown Portland, Stender discovered heavy erosion and vegetation death, most often the result of hikers going off established trails to access the water or a particular viewpoint.

Once a user-created trail is established, Stender said, other hikers tend to be drawn to explore it as well.

Chris Hedeen, who was hiking at Wahclella with his family on Wednesday said he does his best to try to protect the trail.

"I always try to stay on the trail," Hedeen said. "I try to teach the boys to stay on the trail, to respect things. If we see litter, we pick it up."

Stender said she does her best to educate hikers she encounters, encouraging them to stay on established trails and clean up after themselves, but the message is clearly not reaching everyone.

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