Deluxe cabins, paddling activities and other attractions add to lure of popular state park.

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WARRENTON, Ore. — The Oregon coast’s popular Fort Stevens State Park no longer has much of an offseason.

Traditionally slow winter months have sped up at the state park with more visitors braving the weather to have fun or deciding to stay warm inside new deluxe cabins. Consistent visitation leaves little time for park rangers to finish maintenance projects in time for the peak summer months.

Fort Stevens State Park offers 11 cabins, which sleep four to five people and offer electricity and heat.  (Joshua Bessex/The Associated Press)

If you go

Where

On the Northern Oregon coast just south of the Columbia River, Fort Stevens State Park is about 183 miles from Seattle.

Cabin rentals

Deluxe cabins rent for $89 a night; add $10 for pet-friendly cabins. Yurts $45, campsites $21-$32.

Reservations

www.reserveamerica.com

More information

Fort Stevens State Park, bit.ly/1mDMpKU

“There were the times when some parks even closed in the winter on the coast,” Fort Stevens State Park Manager Teri Wing said. “Not any more. We are open year-round.”

Attendance peaked last year in July, when the park’s population can mirror the largest cities in Clatsop County, home to Astoria and Seaside.

While the 513-campsite park expects high turnout around July, the usually quiet months between November and February have seen visitor increases in recent years.

What was considered a four-month offseason has shrunk to December and January, when visiting dips below the equivalent of 2,000 campsite-use days each month.

Cozy and warm

Since the park added 11 deluxe cabins five years ago, Wing said, more visitors have been enticed to stay during the winter.

The deluxe cabins, which sleep four to five people, have a living room, bathroom and kitchen. The living room has a futon couch and flat-screen TV with a DVD player. No linens or utensils are provided, but the cabins have electricity and heat.

“It gives people an opportunity to visit year-round that they couldn’t do before,” Wing said.

Before the cabins, Wing remembers the park having 42 tent sites. Those tent sites sat empty until June each year because most people do not camp in tents on the coast in the winter. The park now has just six tent sites, as more visitors are opting for the cabins.

Wing said the deluxe cabins give people a whole new perspective of the park in the wintertime. They are ideal for storm watching, she said.

“It’s kind of a neat way to view the storms and still be cozy and warm,” Wing said.

Paddle away

Along with inviting people to watch storms from a cabin, the park has focused on offering more recreational opportunities.

The park is forming a partnership with Clatsop Paddle Co. to offer adventure packages that bundle a stay at the park with paddleboarding on Coffenbury Lake. Details are being worked out to launch the pilot program this summer.

In addition, rangers are starting to lead kayak tours on Trestle Bay.

“We are just trying to offer some different opportunities to people,” Wing said. “It’s all about getting people out and interested in the outdoors.”

Given the opportunity, Wing said, visitors from around the region are willing to recreate in rain or shine.

Finding the time

Ranger Supervisor Michael Simonsen said the park’s staff has to find the time to finish maintenance projects while also catering to visitors.

The window to finish projects such as improvements to cabins and trails is shrinking.

This year, the park was gearing up for thousands of visitors for spring break, then the Astoria-Warrenton Crab, Seafood and Wine Festival, before summer is in full swing.

“We get a little lull through May, then school is out and we are wide open until October,” Simonsen said.

This winter, park staff was able to finish a flurry of maintenance projects. The most noticeable may be the restoration of the boardwalk that leads to the wildlife viewing bunker off Parking Lot D near Social Security Beach. The boardwalk was built nearly two decades ago.

“It had been a few years, and everything had rotted out,” Simonsen said. “We just came in and redid it.”

It took more than four months to finish the boardwalk, working on and off for a year. The boardwalk was left half done all last summer.

Park staff recently went through all of the bike trails to remove any roots protruding out of the ground. Since the bike trails are popular, staff had to work in sections to clear the trails. The bike trail project took about three months.

Wing, who has worked with parks for 27 years, became the park manager in 2004. Her father worked at Fort Stevens while she was growing up. Wing said it was inevitable she would pursue a career at the park.

She enjoys getting to share her love of the park with more visitors each year. Most people who visit are on vacation and in a good mood. Seeing visitors appreciate the park makes the work year-round worthwhile, she said.

“You feel pretty lucky to work in a place people pay to recreate in,” Wing said.

If you go

Where

On the Northern Oregon coast just south of the Columbia River, Fort Stevens State Park is about 183 miles from Seattle.

Cabin rentals

Deluxe cabins rent for $89 a night; add $10 for pet-friendly cabins. Yurts $45, campsites $21-$32.

Reservations

www.reserveamerica.com

More information

Fort Stevens State Park, bit.ly/1mDMpKU