In his 2016 book “Maine Sporting Camps,” George Smith writes, “In 1904 there were at least 300 sporting camps in operation in Maine. By 2007, this number had dwindled to fewer than 40.

In his interview with the Maine Sporting Camp Heritage Association Smith also learned that these few remaining camps “face serious challenges to their survival.” (Anyone who knows intimately the unrelenting hurdles that sporting camp owners/operators confront know that “serious challenges” is an understatement.) Sporting camps operate on the margins and, among the camp operators, only those rare intrepid souls who love the life put up with the hardships and setbacks.

Only those camps that have adapted to changing times remain solvent. In 2016, a mere four years ago, nobody including George Smith could ever have imagined what the spring of 2020 would usher in for all of Maine’s small businesses, especially sporting camps!

Governor Mills early one-size-fits-all shutdown of the state as a result of the coronavirus put into question the very survival of most small businesses statewide. With minimal infection rates in most of Maine’s 12 rural counties, many of us were perplexed and exasperated that the governor didn’t avoid the lockdowns in geographical regions like Aroostook and Washington counties where there were only one or two Covid-19 cases. That gubernatorial miscalculation, and her insistence that non-residents could not patronize Maine businesses without first undergoing a 14-day quarantine, looked to be the kiss of death for tourism and sporting camps in particular.

Thankfully, this week, reacting to the outcry, the governor apparently saw the light. She ostensibly reopened Maine’s 12 rural counties.

Better late than never. However, to the utter anger and dismay of the state’s tourism industry and sporting camp operators, the Governor did not back down on the 14-day quarantine dictum for all visiting non-residents. This quarantine order, which is expected to remain in place until August, will, if allowed to stand, put an end to Maine’s rich and fabled sporting camp heritage once and for all.

Harvey Calden, who owns Tim Pond Camps and speaks for the Maine Sporting Camp Association, said that 90 percent of his clientele comprise of non-residents.

Other operators echoed his point. Most of the camps depend on income from May 15 to June 30. Calden told the Houlton Pioneer Times, “I don’t think the governor realizes how much of a seasonal business we are. If we lose that period of time, we’re just done.”

It may be too late, but the governor must soon find an alternative to the 14-day non-resident quarantine.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.net.


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