Land trusts in southern Maine are determined to keep trails open, but managing crowds during the pandemic has been a struggle.
BY DEIRDRE FLEMING | STAFF WRITER
SCARBOROUGH — On a Sunday with temperatures nearing 60 degrees, runners, bikers and walkers on the popular Scarborough Marsh trail were out early in the morning last weekend. And they just kept coming.
By 10:30 a.m. birders Marion Sprague and Ian Doherty left their productive birding spot after two hours because of clusters of walkers who walked side by side, making it difficult to leave a 6-foot-wide berth when passing, as health and state officials have recommended people do in public to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
By 11:15 a.m., when Hannah Temple arrived at the trail to cap off her hour-long walk with her Labrador retriever – most of which she took through other “secret woods trails” and empty sidewalks to avoid crowds – the Scarborough Marsh trail was full at the northern entrance. The rail trail in places is as wide as 10 to 12 feet. But last Sunday morning, groups of cyclists, parents with strollers, and dog walkers frequently moved along the trail two to three abreast.
“I’m not going there. That’s way too many people,” said Temple, a nurse at The Cedars in Portland, speaking through her red-calico mask. “And nobody has masks on. If I had more masks, I’d hand them out.”
The Scarborough Marsh trail is part of the Eastern Trail, which allows for 22 miles of off-road hiking from Bug Light in South Portland to Kennebunk. Carole Brush, the executive director of the Eastern Trail Management District, said use along the Eastern Trail has been at least double or triple what it normally is at this time of year.