Considering camping in Maine this summer? The 2021 campground season is shaping up to be similar to last year. But if it’s been a bit since you last camped, you’ll likely notice a few changes.
According to state guidelines, campers should wear face coverings while in public settings and maintain 6 feet of physical distance in a shared space, and those from outside Maine must follow the Keep Maine Healthy plan. These are just a few of the guidelines that campground owners are considering while planning for the upcoming season.
Other bits of the policy have been relaxed a bit for this season though. In an update to the COVID-19 prevention checklist for lodging released on March 19, which includes campgrounds, the state eliminated a requirement for advance reservations for guests and revised cleaning protocols.
For campgrounds, these protocols ensured a safe 2020 season.
Searsport Shores, a popular oceanfront campground in the Midcoast region, has been following the state-issued checklists to the letter. The owners, Astrig and Steve Tanguay, plan to continue to do so this season.
“I think [the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development] has been doing a rocking job,” Astrig Tanguay said. “The fact that we have a reputation of being one of the healthiest states has been fantastic as far as getting people to come here and stay longer.”
Some of the changes that the Tanguays made to their campground in 2020 might remain in place even after the pandemic has run its course. For example, they installed a fogging system in their bathroom and placed spray bottles of bleach in every shower for campers to use for disinfecting the space. These extra sanitization measures have been a big hit with their guests.
They also increased their minimum stay to three nights so they’d have time to fill out the required paperwork for each new camper while also reducing foot traffic in and out of the campground.
“We found out that it’s great, so even if the state changes the regulations, we may keep that [minimum stay at three nights],” she said. “Less coming and going in the park made everyone just a little more relaxed.”
Wearing face coverings, they found, wasn’t a problem for guests.
“People were all in,” Astrig Tanguay said. “They didn’t mind at all. I think when you’re staying in a community and you get to know people around you, you know you don’t want to make the old man camping next to you sick.”
Susan Legere, who owns and runs Acadia Seashore Camping and Cabins in Sullivan with her husband Peter Legere, had a similar experience during the 2020 camping season. They asked that guests wear face coverings in all common areas, and they didn’t experience any problems with compliance.
“You don’t have to be sitting at your campsite with your family wearing a mask,” Susan Legre said of her campground. “It’s like 30 feet between each campsite. Ours is really spread out. But if you’re going off to the shower room, I expect you will have a mask with you and you’ll be popping it on.”
Susan Legere plans to continue with the same campground rules in 2021.
“We’re still doing masks and 6 feet distance and only one family in the [campground] store at a time,” she said. “The shower house will be regulated the same way.”
However, each campground is different, and some may have stricter rules than others. To ensure that you’ll be comfortable staying at a campground, check its website for a list of rules and measures it’s taking to protect guests from COVID-19. Or call ahead and ask.
“Research it enough to see if the owners’ ideas align with your own,” Tanguay said.
“The checklists are there to identify best practices for safely running your business,” said Carolann Ouellette, Director of the Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation. “They’ll continue to review and update the checklists to reflect progress in vaccinations and to further align the guidelines with Maine’s strategy to combat COVID-19.”
Maine business owners are asked to pair their industry-specific checklist with the general guidance checklist for all industries when making decisions about business operations.
“So many businesses are really working hard to make sure that not only their guests are safe but their employees and communities are safe,” Ouellette said. “I think the majority of people are being very vigilant about this.”