Baxter State Park set for big opening Friday

Baxter State Park director Jensen Bissell (right) talks with two hikers from Massachusetts who were crossing a road in the Scientific Forest Management Area  of Baxter State park in 2009.
Baxter State Park director Jensen Bissell (right) talks with two hikers from Massachusetts who were crossing a road in the Scientific Forest Management Area of Baxter State park in 2009.
Posted May 19, 2011, at 7:41 p.m.
Last modified May 19, 2011, at 10:18 p.m.

BAXTER STATE PARK, Maine — Visitors won’t yet be allowed to scale Baxter Peak, but they will find at least 60 percent of Baxter State Park’s trails and roads open when the park has its big opening day Friday, park director Jensen Bissell said Thursday.

Though parts of Baxter have been accessible for months, heavy snows and rains since December have left park workers fixing road washouts and awaiting thaws and the drying out of trails and roads, Bissell said.

This delayed the opening of most of the park, which usually occurs by May 15.

“The colder, wetter weather just hasn’t melted the snow and brought the frost out of the roads,” Bissell said.

Among the features park visitors can expect to be open Friday are:

• Trout Brook Farm campground and portions of 45-mile-long Park Tote Road, which is open now to Foster Field and to Trout Brook Crossing. Tote Road is also open on the north end of the park from Matagamon Gate to Trout Brook Crossing and South Branch Pond Campground.

• The Russell Pond campground, which is accessible by hiking in from the north via South Branch Pond campground.

• Abol, Katahdin Stream, Daicey Pond, Kidney Pond, Russell Pond and South Branch Pond Campgrounds are open for reservations only, via the park website, baxterstateparkauthority.com, as of today, Bissell said.

“All the trails below the [mountain] treeline are open now, but they are probably wet and probably somewhat snowed,” Bissell said.

Roaring Brook Campground, meanwhile, won’t be open until Sunday. The Russell Pond and Wassataquoik Stream Trails remain closed until water levels drop in Wassataquoik Stream. Roaring Brook, Trout Brook Farm, Nesowadnehunk Field and Chimney Pond also remain closed until conditions improve, Bissell said.

Chimney Pond Campground usually doesn’t open until June 1, and given the delays caused by the difficult weather, an opening by that date would be fortunate indeed, Bissell said.

“It’s a long ways away,” Bissell said.

Last year, the park drew 67,000 visitors to the Katahdin region, a better than average year but nothing close to the mid-1990s, which saw as many as 85,000 annual visitors, Bissell said.

Bissell said he hopes the peak will be accessible by Memorial Day. Anyone wishing for up-to-the-minute information should go to the park’s website, he said.

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