MILLINOCKET – Baxter State Park is set to reopen in just under two weeks, a welcome announcement to businesses in the Katahdin Region.
The park officially reopens to the public on June 15, though park officials say visitors have been showing up at the gate over the past month hoping to get in. Those visitors will be welcomed back with opened arms by the businesses in the surrounding gateway community, just like those in Millinocket.
“Certainly the tourism industry, the hospitality industry has taken a big hit,” said Jamie Brundrett, Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce President. “The motels have been closed down until just recently, same thing with the campgrounds and those folks count on the summer season.”
The Katahdin region relies on tourist dollars in all four seasons. The summer is no exception.
It’s estimated that 60,000 people visit the park every year, in addition to the thousands visiting the other area attractions.
However, the 2020 numbers are not expected to be that high.
“We’re known for being socially distant up here to begin with,” said Brundrett. “Get out and enjoy the mountain and the trails, so how do we use that to our advantage.”
The busiest months of the year are yet to come for Baxter State Park, but replacing the business of the nearly 50 percent of the visitors that come from out of state will be difficult.
“We recognize that this park is very important to the gateway communities that surround it from an economic perspective,” said park director Eben Sypitkowski. “We’re glad that we can open our doors again and welcome some of that economic activity back in to this area.”
In a 2008 study, it was found that park visitors contribute around $6.8 million annually in indirect spending, a number park officials say has likely grown since then.
Mainers are encouraged to come out safely.
“During this time it is important to stay local and recreate at a lower level than you might at other times,” Sypitkowski said.