MAINE, USA — Even with delayed openings and capacity and out-of-state travel limitations due to Covid-19, more than 3 million people visited Maine's state parks last year.
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) says 2020 broke all records for recreation visits.
In all, 3,067,112 people visited Maine State Parks in 2020.
One group contributing to those record numbers: Maine families discovering state parks for the first time.
Catherine Carpenter was a freshman at Wake Forest University in North Carolina when she came home to Maine for spring break last March.
"I was only supposed to be home for a week, then a week grew into 2 weeks, then we were stuck home indefinitely," Carpenter said.
The pandemic quickly closed schools and businesses and limited gatherings. Mainers found themselves stuck inside for months until the summer came—and a bit of relief.
"I think it's really nice and easy to take advantage of the good situation where you're living in a state that prioritizes being outside and offers so many opportunities," she said.
Carpenter's parents took her and her brother John to Acadia National Park for the first time.
And they weren't the only Maine families who decided to get out and explore Maine's big beautiful backyard.
"In the end, the numbers proved it was a great season," said Jim Britt, DACF's Director of Communication.
Britt said Bradbury Mountain in Pownal alone saw a 60-percent increase in visitors.
"We absolutely had a flood of new visitors to the parks, first-time visitors, first-time campers," Britt said.
Britt says visitors overwhelmingly followed safety procedures the department worked hard to put into place.
"People really came with the mindset that they're there to relax and unwind and get some sunshine, fresh air and forget about the pandemic for a little bit," he said. "So, I think that's why Maine State Parks are really an oasis for so many of us."
The Maine DACF is optimistic for a repeat performance in 2021.
State park reservations open for 2021 at 9 a.m. on Feb. 1, when Sebago Lake State Park begins taking online reservations.
All other Maine state parks open for online reservations at 9 a.m. on Feb. 5. To make a reservation, go to campwithme.com or call 800-332-1501 or 207-624-9950.
Click here for a complete list of Maine State Parks and Public Lands.