Katahdin will have hikers later this summer, as Baxter State Park is slowly reopened. Staff file photo

Baxter State Park officials will begin to reopen sections of the 209,000-acre wilderness park for recreational use starting June 15, although the campgrounds are expected to remain closed until July 1, the park announced in a statement Tuesday.

Campgrounds in the park and the two gates at the south and north end of the park have been closed since the park announced on April 14 it would open later this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Hikers were only allowed access to the park from the two main gates on foot.

On June 15, the park will open the Togue Pond and Matagamon gates from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. for vehicle use – allowing hikers access to more than 60 miles of trail within five miles of the Tote Road, as well as fishing access to more than 25 ponds and seven streams, Park Director Eben Sypitkowski said in the release. The decision to slowly reopen the park  is in keeping with guidelines set by state health officials and Gov. Janet Mills’ plan to restart Maine’s economy, he said.

Trails above treeline will remains closed – although that mandate is typical during this wet time of year in order to protect the sensitive alpine ecosystems. Trails above treeline – including those on Katadhin and Traveler – are tentatively set to open July 1, as are most camping areas.

Bunkhouses will not be open for the 2020 season, and those with reservations will get refunds, the release stated.

Before the campgrounds open, staff and volunteers will be trained to help visitors safely use the park during the virus outbreak.

All non-residents entering the park are expected to have undergone a 14-day quarantine after entering the state, Sypitkowski said. Roughly half of the 60,000 to 70,000 people who visit Baxter annually are from out of state, according to the park.

The park, like state officials, “encourages people to wear face coverings in addition to maintaining physical distancing of six feet,” Sypitkowski said.

“We recognize that connecting with the natural world is an important salve in this time of anxiety, and we look forward to partnering with the public to make this a safe season,” he said.

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