When you think of tourism, you often think of economic success. But if you ask Hood River County Sheriff's deputies there's a negative side to it, especially in a place that's considered an outdoor enthusiast's dream.
"It's very overwhelming at times," Hood River County Sheriff, Matt English said.
Sheriff English said for years he's watched more tourists explore the area, all while he's remained understaffed with a current team of 18.
"We're staffed basically right about where we were in 1990 and so we're staffed for about 16, 17,000 people, but we're at 25,000 people, plus the millions of tourists," he said
He said the usually more than 100 calls a day that keep them so busy are less about crime and more about recreation.
He said that's because they cover popular areas like part of the Columbia River, Mt. Hood and the Gorge.
"Our search and rescue numbers are some of the higher ones in the state, but you know those are compared to counties that have 10 to 20 times the amount of resources," the sheriff said.
The sheriff said the little amount of deputies he has are working non-stop around the clock.
"It's at the expense of your personal life, your family," Sheriff English said. "We're struggling."
He said you also can't forget about the Eagle Creek Fire last September. An emergency that led to the entire sheriff's department's overtime budget being spent in just a few weeks.
"That's another example, Eagle Creek Fire was in our county and that was started by somebody that doesn't live here," he said.
Sheriff English said he knows tourism is a good thing for the county he loves and calls home, but right now, he said it's at the expense of his team.
"It's kind of a love-hate relationship to tell you the truth because we really want to support our businesses and our community because it's a major economic driver," he said. "I just worry about people's safety and our ability to respond."
Sheriff English said a big reason he's short-staffed is because he can't pay deputies what surrounding counties can. He said they're often working harder and making less.
He said he doesn't have a solution to fixing the problem, but hopes somehow his deputies can benefit from some of the success Hood River County sees from tourism.
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