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Home arrow Opinion arrow Editorials arrow Closed in winter

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Closed in winter

The Kim family thought they were on their way from Interstate 5 to Gold Beach on the Oregon Coast.

Instead, their tragic wrong turn took them into the headlines and the hearts of good people everywhere.

There is no blame to be assigned. And we may never know why the Kims pressed on rather than turning around.

Yet, we in Baker County know all too well that paved mountain roads can be impassable in winter due to snow.

But the Kims were from the California Bay Area, a place where travel concerns are different. Just imagine dropping a seasoned Baker County local on the roads of that region; could he or she tell Emeryville from Oakland, Sausalito from San Mateo?

Maybe — with the help of a map.

Oregon's official highway map notes the Bear Camp Road the Kims were traveling is closed in winter.

A decade-old copy of the same highway map doesn't, indicating someone at the state realized even a small warning was worth noting on the map.

Here's the rub, though: the latest highway map, while indicating Bear Camp as closed, offers no similar designation to the Elkhorn and Hells Canyon scenic byways.

Portions of both those roads are closed in winter — something Mapquest.com failed to account for even after adjusting the search for seasonal closures.

In both cases, roadside signs note the roads are closed in winter. And even if you miss the sign, there's no substitute for common sense as the snow packs up under your bumper.

But it would behoove Oregon, where tourism is both an economic force and impetus for in-migration, to do everything in its power to arm visitors with the best possible information.

At the very least, the Oregon Department of Transportation should work with counties and federal agencies to inventory and note all paved roads in the state that are closed in a typical winter due to snow.

But in an era of computer maps and on-board navigation, the state could further direct service providers to take note of these roads. It might even be possible for the state to legislate that Web- and satellite-navigation services take note of an official list of roads as closed in winter.

Or perhaps, in an era of such marvels as GPS and Internet mapping, we should remain humbled by their fallibility.,

No one would advise a traveler in Granite to get to Ukiah in December by way of the North Fork of the John Day River.

But both Mapquest and the official highway map of Oregon show it is possible.

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