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What you need to know if you plan to observe eclipse in recreational spaces

By Julie Harris, Bangor Daily News Staff

If you plan to watch the total eclipse on April 8 from your favorite state park or ATV trail, you may want to check first.

Maine’s state park campgrounds are closed in April. Baxter State Park will be closed to camping around that date, and Katahdin trails won’t be open either, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

As the thousands of visitors expected from around the country converge on the Maine towns in the pathway of the total eclipse, people will be seeking alternatives to congested areas. Maine’s huge outdoor system of trails, parks and peaks might seem like a good option, but because of the time of year, it may not be.

The campsites and access roads in the North Maine Woods are not maintained during the winter and early spring months, and are not accessible without possibly damaging privately owned roads, MDIF&W said in a newsletter sent out on accessing eclipse viewing areas.

All-terrain vehicle trails will not be open to riding yet on April 8 because of how muddy they are that time of year, and landowner permission is necessary to ride off-trail, the department said.

The department also issued tips about staying safe in remote areas by having an emergency kit in your vehicle, taking maps and not relying on GPS or cell phones because signals may be spotty, and staying on paved roads to avoid getting stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere.

Even though Maine’s black bears are rarely aggressive, they are just coming out of hibernation and should be avoided if possible. To stay safe, hike in groups, make noise in thick cover, keep dogs leashed and carry bear spray and a walking stick for defense, the department said.

Bears aren’t the only thing in transition in the spring in Maine. The ice conditions on Maine’s lakes and ponds have been variable all season because of the warmer than normal temperatures since January. 

By April 8, the MDIF&W expects most ice on waterways will not be safe to walk on for eclipse viewing and recommends that people avoid it.

Hikers should be prepared for early season conditions such as mud, snow, ice, limited daylight and fast-changing weather conditions. Some trailheads may not be accessible and trails may be closed because of physical conditions or nesting birds, the department said.

Many of the lakes and ponds may have just experienced ice-out in early April, so water temperatures are dangerous. If boating to view the eclipse, wear lifejackets, the department said.

Finally, Maine’s outdoor recreational trail infrastructure relies heavily on private landowners, who own 95 percent of the land where they are situated. MDIF&W is encouraging eclipse visitors to respect the state’s landowners and ask permission before using someone’s property and to remove any trash generated.

The MDIF&W’s tips are part of a larger plan coordinated by the Maine Emergency Management Agency to help eclipse observers have a safe visit.

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