The Boothbay region’s only recreational vehicle campgrounds, Shore Hills of Boothbay and Gray Homestead Ocean Campground of Southport, are in the midst of what would have been quite a successful season as Maine celebrates its 200th anniversary.
Shore Hills campground host Paula Reny-Warford said all of May was lost as the announcement for openings of private campgrounds came less than a week before Memorial Weekend. “… My mother and I already had cancelled everyone's reservations,” said Reny-Warford. “We were down 64% at the end of June and I think now it's still around 50%.”
Reny-Warford said July and August typically bring droves of Canadians, but lockdown of the U.S.-Canadian border made that impossible. Most recently, Shore Hills was scheduled to have a rally which sold 30 out of the 50 total spots in that area ahead of time. “They all cancelled. There's a lot of people we've turned away in that time who we won't get back.”
Shore Hills’ cabins were empty for a while, but have just begun to bounce back. On the other hand, tenting areas have been closed to minimize guests encountering one another at the restrooms which could not possibly be sanitized often enough to ensure no risks.
Said Reny-Warford, “You can kind of tell by looking around here that it's just not normal. At this time of year for that many sites in a row that doesn’t have somebody on them? It's crazy.”
Most guests are nervous about coming out and traveling, Reny-Warford said. “And I don’t blame them. Nobody really knows the extent of this … Everybody's in the same boat. I worry about all my friends with their restaurants. I worry about everybody. Everybody's just trying to stay compliant and make a living.”
“In the beginning, I didn't know how all this would work,” said Gray Campground’s Steve Gray. “The rules are so tight and they weren't allowing hardly anyone here. It was pretty scary at that point. We didn't know if we'd have a season.”
Gray and his wife Suzanne said they still did not know what to expect as they greeted a family in mid-May who would be the only guests for several weeks. The family was from New York, so, without enough testing then, they would have to quarantine for two weeks, said Suzanne.
“They got deliveries ... their groceries dropped off. Pinkham's decided it would be a good time to deliver food from their market so they did that. Nobody came into contact, they paid on the phone with a credit card. It was perfect.”
Little by little, people started to trickle in as they began feeling safer, said Suzanne. The relatively low numbers of cases in Maine also add to out-of-staters’ desire to visit. Said Steve, “When people were seeing that and after being in the house for four months, they decided Maine looked like a good bet.”
The Grays said their campground consists of about 80% seasonal campers, people who consider the campground their second home. Those campers were also skeptical on whether or not they should consider traveling this year, said Suzanne.
The protocol for staying at the campground is quite involved, Suzanne explained. They have designed ways to minimize contact for just about every facet of checking in, paying, giving proof of a negative COVID-19 test or intent to quarantine and checking out. Everything is done from a distance and with no phyiscal contact with a guest.
Said Suzanne, “It's worked very well. It took a while to figure it all out, but three or four times a week, people are coming up at a six-foot distance and saying thank you … We had somebody check in the other day ... and I hear this lady scream, 'Yahoo! I'm on vacation! I'm out of my house!' … Everybody here's been safe, knock on wood.”