Loon Echo Land Trust on Thursday closed the Pleasant Mountain trails in Bridgton and Denmark – on the mountain that is home to Shawnee Peak ski area that has sweeping views of the White Mountains.

The popular and moderately easy 3-mile hike to the summit has had a surge in hiker traffic since the coronavirus pandemic spread to Maine, according to the Bridgton-based land trust.

The land trust chose to close all four hiking trails up Pleasant Mountain – Ledges, Southwest Ridge, Firewardens and Bald Peak, all of which are managed by the land trust and volunteers – at the request of the local fire departments, said Maggie Lynn, the land trust’s membership manager.

“Our local fire departments did not want to expose their personnel to greater risk in the event of a rescue on these backcountry trails,” Lynn said. “The trails have seen an incredible amount of use over the last two weeks.”

All of Loon Echo Land Trust’s other trails – about 20 miles on 11 preserves – remain open for use at this time.

Thursday morning, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry issued a statement – along with Maine Coast Heritage Trust and other conservation groups – to encourage people to look for new trails they haven’t hiked before, and to have a “Plan B” when arriving at a trailhead parking area that’s full.

The department also urged hikers to practice social distancing, and to avoid touching signs, kiosks, benches or picnic tables while hiking and recreating – to halt the spread of the virus.

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