The global coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us to be creative about some of the things we used to take for granted.

Can’t go to a restaurant? Home cooking and takeout meals have had to fill the gap. Can’t work in a crowded office? A home computer, videoconferencing and forwarded phone lines are working better than many of us could have imagined.

Where we go for outdoor recreation demands the same kind of creativity.

Maine’s stay-at-home order makes an exception for exercise because getting outdoors is essential for everyone’s physical and mental health, even during an infectious disease outbreak. But like other aspects of our lives, we are challenged to find new ways to make it work.

Outdoor recreation stops being good for us if we all crowd into the same popular sites, bumping into each other on beaches and trails, inviting the kinds of contact that we have been trying to avoid through social distancing.

Fortunately, we in Maine have a lot of good, safe options. We are a big state with a small population, and there are many opportunities for people to spread out and enjoy the outdoors.

A lot of attention has been paid to the the closure of coastal state parks and some popular municipally operated beaches because they bring too many people into confined spaces where the virus can spread. But even though Gov. Mills has kept 10 coastal parks closed when she extended the stay-at-home order last week, 38 other state parks and historic sites are still open and offer opportunities for people to experience the outdoors.

And this would be a good time to explore other, lesser-known sites around the state, like the Wildlife Management Areas, run by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which have 33,000 acres in southern Maine that can be accessed by the public. They are not as developed as state parks – no paved trails or bathroom facilities – but they often have a network of old logging roads that can provide a good place to walk and get away from the pandemic of stress many of us are experiencing.

Information about where these site are located can be found on the IF&W website, where you can find downloadable maps.

It’s also a good time to check out land held by local land trusts. These groups invite the public on to preserved land, offering access to some of Maine’s little-known gems. For information about finding a land trust near you, the Maine Land Trust Network website (mltn.org) is a good place to start.

There are many sacrifices Mainers have had to make to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but forgoing outdoor recreation shouldn’t be one of them. As we enter the time of year when the days are longer and warmer, there are still many good options to explore even if the state beaches are closed.

We just have to be creative.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.