Snow delays opening of Baxter State Park

Posted May 18, 2010, at 10:12 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:59 a.m.

BAXTER STATE PARK, Maine — Winter’s snows melted quickly last month around Baxter State Park but still linger enough in the park to delay trail openings, park Director Jensen Bissell said Tuesday.

“That’s our concern. We realize that people have experienced this really early spring, so the perception is that it will be that way in the park,” Bissell said Tuesday. “It isn’t. There is still a lot of heavy snow on the trails.”

Hikers will likely have to wait a few weeks until snows melt and the trails dry out enough to be solid underfoot, Bissell said. Hikers looking to sidestep the snow or mud could easily do disastrous damage to the relatively rare fauna around trails without intending to, Bissell said.

“This is when those resources are at most vulnerable,” Bissell said. “If somebody walks on those plants, those footprints will [kill the plants] in about a year.”

Bissell estimated that Abol Trail and Hunt Trail, which lead to Baxter Peak, probably will be ready by Memorial Day. Their opening was announced by park officials last year on May 20. Those trails, which are on the park’s western side, typically open first because they get a lot of southern exposure, Bissell said.

Helon Tailor Trail likely will open next, in early June, with the trails on the park’s north side, including the Saddle and Cathedral byways, likely opening in mid-June, Bissell said.

Up-to-date weather forecasts and trail conditions are available at baxterstateparkauthority.com and 723-5140.

The park, that encompasses more than 200,000 acres of wilderness and public forest, includes the 5,268-foot Mount Katahdin.

Baxter State Park is funded independently through a combination of revenue from trust funds, camping fees, nonresident and entrance fees; and from the sale of forest products, Bissell said.

Except for the snow, the trails and 218 miles of roads within the park seem in very good shape, Bissell said. The heavy windstorms of the last two months have blown down a lot of trees across trails that park workers will be clearing over the next two months. Trail crews began training on Tuesday.

“The roads are actually in perfect shape,” Bissell said.

Among the new features workers are adding to the park this year are two more lean-tos on the shores of Katahdin Lake. Those should be done by Aug. 1, Bissell said. Four more miles of trails will also be finished around the lake region by winter.

Park visitors can reserve campgrounds by visiting baxterstateparkauthority.com. To accommodate visitors, the park website provides daily updates on the availability of camping spots. Campers can now reserve spots up to four months in advance on a rolling reservation schedule.

The park has changed its pricing schedule. Instead of the per-person rate now in place that differs for adults, youngsters and teenagers, there will be a per-site rate for those who want to camp in the park.

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