The trailhead at Vaughan Woods in Hallowell on Monday. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Vaughan Woods in Hallowell has been closed until further notice because city officials fear those walking the trails are not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously.

Meanwhile, other central Maine towns are discussing closing their public areas, while some municipal playgrounds are wrapped in caution tape.

Katie Tremblay, executive director of the Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead, said the decision was made Saturday “with heavy hearts.”

“The extremely high rate of visitation on the warm Saturday as well as the lack of social distancing practices on the part of visitors (despite our many educational signs) gave us no other choice than to follow the lead of the State of Maine which has closed many popular parks and beaches for the same reason,” Tremblay wrote in a prepared statement.

“From what we saw on the trails on Saturday, it is evident that many people are not taking this crisis seriously.”

Tremblay said Sunday there were 50 automobiles outside of the trailhead at 2 p.m. Saturday, which only has parking to accommodate 12 vehicles.

“Just the sheer volume of people made it impossible to feel comfortable even offering this place,” she said. “This decision was painful … but also not (difficult) because it was kind of made for us.”

Tremblay said the Homestead had posted a number of times on social media and on signs at the trailhead about the importance of social distancing.

“Folks have been really supportive. They understood,” Tremblay said. “We were expecting some criticism, but we’ve received positive feedback from the community.”

A person strolls past the swing set at the Gardiner Common on March 19. City officials closed the playgrounds in the community to reduce exposure to the coronavirus, according to a posting on the city’s social media page. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy Buy this Photo

Leif Dahlin, Augusta’s director of community services, said the city’s green spaces and parks are still open — except for playground equipment, which has been taped off. He said the playground closure was in line with recommendations from the National Recreation and Park Association.

Dahlin said he was looking particularly hard at the city’s public basketball courts during the outbreak.

“If they get too much play, we’re going to pull the rims,” he said.

Dahlin said the Kennebec River Rail Trail is being left open under the suggestion that people “use social distancing as a strategy.”

Chris Cart, vice president of the trail’s board of directors, said the trail is going to remain open for the time being and the directors will be adding more signs soon to encourage social distancing.

“Everybody’s got their own safe social group that they already have contact with, ” he said. “We need to make sure the groups give each other space.”

In Gardiner, City Manager Christine Landes said city officials are considering closing town parks, but no decisions had been made as of Monday.

The playground at the Gardiner Common is wrapped in caution tape, but walking paths and the gazebo are unobstructed.

The Morning Sentinel’s Molly Shelly contributed to this report.


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