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As the state of Maine slowly reopens businesses and public spaces this spring and summer, it may be confusing at times to figure out exactly what’s open and available — and what’s not. To help you enjoy the outdoors safely, and with minimal frustration, we’ve compiled information about outdoor destinations and recreational opportunities, focusing on the month of May.
Things are continually changing in the state’s response to COVID-19. Some timelines for reopening outdoor destinations may shift in the future.
What the re-opening plan says about recreation
According to Gov. Janet Mills’ plan for reopening the state of Maine, outdoor recreation, including guided outdoor activities — such as guided hunting and fishing trips — are permitted in Phase 1 of the plan, which begins May 1.
These activities must be conducted with proper safety precautions, adhering to CDC guidelines for social distancing. That means maintaining a distance of six feet or more from other recreationists and only traveling with people in your household.
In addition, Mills’ April 29 executive order requires that Maine people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Fortunately, distance is usually easy to maintain when spending time outdoors. However, the order does include “outdoor spaces such as playgrounds and busy parking lots” as places people must wear cloth face coverings.
Also in Phase 1 of the plan, some golf and disc golf courses may open. However, it’s important to check before visiting these places, as some will remain closed.
Lodging, campgrounds and day camps are not slated to open until Phase 2 of the plan, which is slated to begin June 1, and they will only be open for Maine residents and those traveling from out of state who have met the 14-day quarantine requirement.
What Maine state parks are open?
The majority of Maine’s 48 state parks and historic sites are open for day use, with reduced staffing and facilities. However, 10 of the state’s most popular state parks and historic sites will remain closed throughout May to prevent overcrowding.
The closed parks and sites are: Reid State Park, Popham Beach State Park, Fort Popham, Fort Baldwin, Kettle Cove State Park, Two Lights State Park, Crescent Beach State Park, Scarborough Beach State Park, Ferry Beach State Park and Mackworth Island.
These 10 parks and sites may reopen during Phase 2 of the plan, which begins June 1. This will depend on the status of COVID-19 in the state.
Acadia National Park is ‘effectively closed’
Acadia National Park will continue to have extremely limited access throughout the month of May, with most park services and operations suspended.
“[Acadia National Park] is still effectively closed with no restrooms, no trash cans, no campgrounds open, no contact stations open. We are still encouraging people to stay home and recreate locally at least through the month of May,” said Christie Anastasia, the park’s public affairs specialist.
Acadia has closed all visitor centers and the Park Loop Road, including Ocean Drive. While parking at trailheads (that are accessible by open roads) during the day is permitted, overnight parking is not permitted.
Currently, the plan is for Hulls Cove Visitor Center to open June 1, Sieur de Monts Visitor Center to open June 15, and park campgrounds to open on June 15. However, should the pandemic emergency continue, the park will re-evaluate those dates and potentially delay them further.
Baxter state park gates will remain closed
The park will remain open for walk-in day use below the tree line, which is the elevation on mountains where trees no longer grow. However, all trails exploring Katahdin and Traveler mountains will be closed at the trailheads.
The park’s two gates — Togue Pond and Matagamon gates — will remain closed to vehicle traffic. Affected camping and day use parking reservations will be canceled. The park will contact all those impacted to transfer or refund reservations.
Baxter State Park operates independent of the larger state park system in Maine. It is governed by the Baxter State Park Authority, which is made up of three people: the director of the Maine Forest Service, the attorney general and the commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. This authority operates the park through the park director and administrative staff. For updates, visit baxterstatepark.org.
Orono bog boardwalk closed
One of the Bangor area’s most treasured outdoor destinations, the Orono Bog Boardwalk, will remain closed until restrictions of physical distancing and public gatherings are lifted, according to an April 29 announcement made by the Orono Bog Boardwalk Management Committee.
The boardwalk is only 4 feet wide and travels through a peat bog, where stepping off trail is not an option (since you would sink into several feet of water and peat). Therefore, it would be impossible for people to practice social distancing while passing each other on the boardwalk.
“Given the boardwalk’s configuration and the large number of visitors each day, it is not possible to ensure safe physical distancing or frequent surface disinfection as required by the Maine Governor’s Office and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention during the COVID-19 outbreak,” the Orono Bog Boardwalk Management Committee posted on the official boardwalk Facebook page.
The boardwalk, which closes each winter, typically opens for the season on May 1.
Preserves, city parks, beaches and other outdoor destinations
Maine hiking trails, boat launches, picnic spots, playgrounds and other outdoor destinations are located on properties that are owned by a wide variety of organizations, agencies, companies and other entities. And each has the power to open or close their lands. Therefore, before visiting an outdoor destination, check to see if it’s open.
Right now, some popular trails, preserves, parks and beaches throughout Maine are closed due to overcrowding. To stay up to date about the status of specific locations, figure out who owns or maintains the property, then visit their website and social media pages or contact the landowner directly. For example, if you’re curious about whether a town-owned park is open to the public, call the town office or visit the town office website. If curious about a preserve, visit the land trust website or call the land trust.
When visiting an outdoor destination — even if you know that it is indeed open to the public — have a plan B and C in mind. That way, if the destination is crowded (say the parking lot is overflowing), you can travel to another nearby location that is less crowded.
Demand for outdoor recreation opportunities is high right now. There is a risk of some popular trails and outdoor destinations closing due to overcrowding. So try to seek out lesser-known places. Also, you may be able to avoid crowds by steering clear of peak visitation times (generally mid-morning to early afternoon, and weekends). Instead, try getting outside early in the morning or later in the afternoon, on weekdays and on rainy or cloudy days.
Maine is home to a wealth of outdoor resources. Spread out. Stay safe. And enjoy some fresh air.
Aislinn Sarnacki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook: facebook.com/1minhikegirl, Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” and “Dog-Friendly Hikes in Maine” are available at local bookstores and wherever books are sold.