Wallowa County motels, RV parks dispel rumors of COVID-19 refugees

An empty parking lot at the Ponderosa Motel in Enterprise is testimony that helps dispel rumors of hordes of out-of-county visitors coming to Wallowa County to escape the COVID-19 outbreak. The manager there confirmed that room bookings do not reflect the rumors and they have protocols in place to keep all rooms extra clean.

ENTERPRISE — Rumors that Wallowa County is being flooded with visitors fleeing the COVID-19 pandemic in more populous areas appear to be just that — rumors.

Several motels and RV parks in the upper Wallowa valley said they have either fewer bookings than normal — or at least no hordes.

Spokespeople at Enterprise motels, the Wilderness Inn and the Ponderosa Motel, confirmed that.

Jaden Hazzard, general manager at the Wilderness Inn, said it has fewer than normal bookings.

Kelly Noble, manager at the Ponderosa Motel, said the few customers they have are families taking advantage of school closures to break free of being cooped up at home.

“They decided to take the time with their families and go hiking,” Noble said.

She said her customers aren’t taking the so-called coronavirus flight too seriously.

“Folks who are traveling think it’s somewhat of a joke,” she said. “They’re just bonding as a family.”

Noble said the Ponderosa staffers have strict protocols in place to do their best to prevent the spread of any contamination. When a customer leaves a room, staffers air it out for three hours before even entering. Then they use a disinfectant spray similar to that which hospitals use to kill both airborne and surface germs. They also use a hospital-grade sanitation procedure for laundry, she said.

Noble said she believes those at highest risk of infection — particularly the elderly — are generally staying home.

Todd Morrow, owner of the Log House RV Park and Campground — Enterprise’s lone RV park — said he, too, has seen no evidence of people fleeing. He said his bookings are down considerably from previous years and the few customers he does have are locals who regularly book.

Raylene O’Connor, co-owner with husband Mike of the Bronze Antler Bed & Breakfast in Joseph, said their four-room establishment is empty and they’ve blocked their online booking system until early April.

“We’ve pretty much closed because of the coronavirus,” she said.

Marcy Hamilton, owner of 5 Peaks RV Park in Joseph, said although her park is empty right now, she’s expecting things to pick up soon. She has just a couple reservations booked for the middle of April and more for May.

But she’s noting that the closure of state and federal campgrounds may be a mixed blessing for private parks.

“I would imagine that those of us in the county are going to pick up with full-time RVers because, after all, where are they going to go?” she asked. “Unless we’re mandated that we can’t take them, I’m going to take them because I need the money and they need a place.”

But how to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus?

“We’ll have to wear gloves handling money, I guess,” she said.

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