The cruelest month

Before COVID, and the mandatory wearing of the cussed masks and all of the state-imposed protocols, April used to be the cruelest month in Maine, as T.S. Eliot understood. It was the cruelest month because, after a long, unrelenting winter of cold and darkness, the last thing Mainers needed was to be teased and taunted by a mercurial Mother Nature. Sunny one day; rain, snow and bone-chilling north winds the next day.

For a die-hard Maine-loving trout fisherman from, say Rome, N.Y., or Paramus, N.J., who likes to come to Maine for an annual angling adventure, June has become the cruelest month. Last June, if you recall, Baxter State Park, a popular and productive haunt for any trout angler, was closed to visitors.

What about this June?

We tried to get answers. The Baxter Park receptionist sends all media queries to the park director, who has yet to return any of my calls.

Here is what we do know. If you are a resident of any state that is not exempted (New Hampshire and Vermont), there is a labyrinth of COVID protocols and paperwork that must be maneuvered through and complied with.

First there is the Keep Maine Healthy Plan, which requires the trout angler from away to fill out a Certificate of Compliance form. This requires that the would-be visitor show proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of arrival at a Maine destination, or be willing to self-quarantine in Maine for 10 days prior to arriving at Baxter Park or a commercial fishing lodge.

There is also the Moving Maine Forward Plan. This apparently exempts our angling tourist from the Keep Maine Healthy Plan’s paper trail, unless of course the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decides that he or she is from a high-risk state. So, if Albert Angler from Paramus thinks that he is off the hook after the Moving Maine Forward Plan kicks in May 1 and makes early reservations at a Moosehead fishing lodge, he best keep one eye on the weekly edicts of the Maine CDC.

With state government, like most repositories of political power, it’s always best to pay attention, not to what is said, but what is done. For more than a year now, the Governor’s COVID protocols have taken their toll on the lifeblood of Maine’s sporting camp industry and the tourism economy in general. Now, with a gesture that rings hollow, the Governor’s promotional arm is today reassuring potential visitors that Maine welcomes them with open arms!

Most people who hunt, fish, camp or hike mountain trails are, by their inherent nature, free spirits, with a love of open spaces and personal freedom. It is in their DNA. Maine’s exceedingly complex fishing laws are intimidating enough without Certificate of Compliance forms and 10-day self-quarantine maxims.

How these people, post-COVID, who have long been the bread and butter of Maine’s bedrock tourism business, will feel about Maine as a tourist destination in the future is anyone’s guess.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]

V. Paul Reynolds

Columnist at Ellsworth American
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]

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