The Star-Herald

Pandemic-related concerns lead to cancellation of Winter Family Fun Day

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — In the past 24 years that Aroostook State Park has offered its annual Winter Family Fun Day, park manager Scott Thompson and his staff have only canceled the event twice. 

“We canceled in 2016 because of a lack of snow. And this year it’s because of the pandemic,” Thompson said.

Typically, Winter Family Fun Day — usually held in late February — draws thousands of local families to the park for a day of snowtubing, skiing and tote sled rides on the frozen Echo Lake. But this year Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands has opted to cancel all Winter Family Fun Days, slated to be held at parks statewide, due to expected difficulties with overseeing such large groups of people, making sure they are compliant with social distancing and mask wearing and keeping common areas sanitized.

Though all Fun Day events occur outside, they still involve long lines and people being in close proximity for much of their time in the park, he said.

“The snowtubing line typically has 100 people waiting in line to go down the hill,” Thompson said. “We also were concerned about having to sanitize all the ski equipment after each use.”

But Thompson still has been encouraging people to take advantage of outdoor activities that the park has to offer this winter, including the recently opened snowshoe trails. The snowtubing hills are closed for the time being due to insufficient snow cover atop Echo Lake, a spot where most people land after sliding down the hill. While some ski trails are open, many trails are closed due to a lack of snowfall.

Despite the cancellation of organized winter gatherings, Thompson said he has still seen hundreds of people come to the park at various times this winter. He urges people to allow for space if they encounter others on the trail and wear face coverings whenever appropriate.

“It’s a great place to get in some healthy activities while being safe,” Thompson said. “That’s why we’re considered essential business. People still need a chance to get outside in the fresh air and feel good about themselves, even in times like these.”

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