Members of the Hibyan family from Brunswick, Cumberland, North Yarmouth and Ipswich, Mass., enjoy a reunion at Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal in 2020. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Maine state park campground attendance reached record levels for the second straight year in 2021 with 315,000 campers – a 12 percent increase over 2020, according to preliminary state figures.

Last year, as many people turned to outdoor recreation during the first summer of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine’s 12 state park campgrounds saw an 8 percent increase in visitors over 2019 to establish a record of 270,794. In 2021, the campgrounds attracted an additional 34,638 visitors.

Park campgrounds were running at near capacity in the core summer months of July and August, said Rex Turner, outdoor recreation planner at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

“Significant growth in camping in the shoulder seasons is largely responsible for driving up overall camping use figures. In the primary season, we are really running full bore,” Turner said. “We don’t have a lot of unused space. And campsites at the public lands (which are on a first-come, first-served basis), while we don’t have numbers for them, also are seeing a lot of camping use across the board.

“And it’s not like before the pandemic there was a trickle of use,” he added. “It was growing then. But the pandemic sort of threw fuel on the fire.”

The shoulder seasons at state park campgrounds run from mid-May through June and September through mid-October. Most of the campgrounds are closed during winter, although a handful offer winter camping on a first-come, first-served basis.

Weather has an impact on the summer camping season every year, Turner noted. Yet in 2021, despite Maine recording its rainiest July in more than a century, campground attendance remained strong.

State park campgrounds start taking reservations in early February, when the online reservation system opens. Turner said the bureau’s staff expects a rush to reserve campsites again in 2022.

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