Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

March 11, 2021

Maine state parks, public lands expect busier-than-usual spring

a beach with a large granite outcropping and a handful of people, both on the sand and up on the rocks watching frothy waves come in File photo The Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands saw a record rate of attendance at state parks, including Reid State Park, in Georgetown, seen here.

The Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands is expecting a busy spring at state parks and public lands, after they shattered attendance records in 2020 with more than 3 million visitors to the state-run sites.

The Bureau of Parks and Lands, which is part of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said it anticipates the popularity of its outdoor destinations to continue this spring and urged those who plan to visit to plan ahead or have an alternative plan to avoid crowded parking areas and trailhead bottlenecks.

In 2020, the system recorded 3,067,112 visitors to 38 parks and 15 public sites, despite the fact that visitors from outside Maine state were restricted and 10 coastal state parks were closed from late March until June because of crowds.

The goal for this spring is, through planning and cooperation, not to repeat the situation, the bureau said in a news release.

"A typical spring weekday includes plenty of parking and easy-to-navigate trailheads and trails," said Andy Cutko, director of the Bureau of Parks and Lands. "We're thrilled that people are getting outside. At the same time, weekends during March, April and May, especially when temperatures start creeping up, bring elevated attendance numbers and the need for everyone to be thoughtful about outdoor activities."

During 2020, the bureau implemented on-demand communications to help people plan visits to the state parks, something the department will continue this year. 

Bradbury Mountain, Sebago most popular

The parks normally generate about $100 million for the state's economy, according to the most recent DACF figures.

Two of the most popular parks in 2020 were Bradbury Mountain State Park, in Pownal, and Sebago Lake State Park. Bradbury Mountain had a 65% increase in visits over 2019, according to the BPL. The park, which is just outside Freeport, has easy hikes and camping. Sebago Lake State Park, which is traditionally the most popular in the state system, had a 12% increase over 2019.

A video on the Bureau of Parks and Lands webpage touts the features of the state's public lands, an "untold secret," and those looking to get outside are being encouraged by the state to seek out places that may not be as popular and crowded.

There were 2,786,750 day-use visits in 2020 to the 53 parks and sites that BPL oversees, up 74,532 (3%) from 2019; and 280,362 camping visitors at the 14 parks that have camping sites, up 21,871 (8%) from 2019.

Popular coastal parks that closed March 26 and didn't reopen until June 1, and then, with parking restrictions to keep the visitor numbers from getting out of hand, were Reid State Park, in Georgetown; Popham Beach State Park, Fort Popham and Fort Baldwin, in Phippsburg; Kettle Cove State Park, Two Lights State Park and Crescent Beach State Park, in Cape Elizabeth; Scarborough Beach State Park and Ferry Beach State Park, in Scarborough; and Mackworth Island, in Falmouth.

Have a backup plan

The Bureau of Parks and Lands, as with last year, urged those planning on an outing to have a backup plan in case their first destination is too crowded. Less-visited state parks, state public land, wildlife management areas and other alternatives abound, the department said. 

Summer camping at state parks is by reservation; the application process opened last month, both online and by phone.

COVID-19 precautions, including physical distancing and face coverings, will still be in effect on the state property this year. The department also reminded park visitors to be prepared for outdoor vault toilets with no running water, and to pack toilet paper and bring a disposable bag to carry out any waste, including that of pets.

Staffing is limited during the spring, so the BPL asks visitors to pay attention to signs and follow staff requests.

Standard, non-pandemic reminders from the BPL are to tell someone where you're going and when you plan to return, dress for the weather and for possible mud, ice and snow, even if there's none where you live; take precautions to prevent ticks and stick to trails that are appropriate for your fitness level.

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF