PHIPPSBURG — Coastal campgrounds are ramping up for an uncertain summer season as the state starts to slacken its coronavirus restrictions and closures.

Last Thursday, Gov. Janet Mills announced lodging operators in Maine could begin taking reservations for June 1, with a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all out-of-state guests. A previous executive order from Mills had prohibited lodgings from opening to out-of-state visitors until July 1.

Campground owners have started making preparations, but some worry whether local attractions that help drive business, such as coastal parks and beaches, will open in time or whether guests will bother coming at all amid all the uncertainty.

Chris Mixon, owner of Meadowbrook Camping Area in Phippsburg, said he usually launches his season on May 1 and sees an influx of campers during Memorial Day weekend. This year, he’ll start welcoming Maine residents to the campsite June 1. He said last week he planned on holding off on out-of-state reservations until July 1.

“People want to go camping on Memorial Day weekend, and I can’t let them,” said Mixon. “When you see your business hemorrhaging and you have to say ‘No I’m sorry, you can’t come,’ that’s really difficult.”

In neighboring Georgetown, Pat Kosalka, owner of the Sagadahoc Bay Campground is facing a similar problem.

“Because of COVID-19, I had to call and email people to cancel their May reservations,” said Kosalka. “In total, I canceled about $20,000 worth of reservations.”

Kosalka said she sees the majority of her visitors during July and August, when she may host anywhere from 200 to 400 campers across her 70 campsites. In total, about 3,000 tourists total stay at the camp during the summer.

Mixon said his most profitable portion of the summer begins around the 4th of July, then crowds begin to wane at the end of August. During those weeks, he said 150 campsites typically are full, but a 14-day quarantine and closed attractions may be enough to convince people to cancel their vacations.

“Back in January and February, our reservations were up 20%,” said Mixon. “It was looking to be a banner year, but my phone stopped ringing in March. That’s going to be felt next year when the bank account is dry.”

While Mixon said he’s hoping to host guests next month, he’s concerned about nearby Popham Beach State Park, which remains closed to the public to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Popham Beach is the major draw for us,” said Mixon. “Popham being closed hasn’t affected us yet, just because we’re still closed ourselves, but I don’t know what it will look like once we reopen.”

Popham Beach State Park, located 14 miles south of Bath at the mouth of the Kennebec River, is Maine’s busiest state park beach, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture Bureau of Parks and Land. It has a long strip of sand beach and visitors can walk to offshore Fox Island at low tide.

Ten of the state’s 48 state parks and beaches were closed by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry in late March, including Reid State Park and Popham Beach State Park. In late April, Mills announced those 10 parks and beaches will remain closed until at least June 1.

“If you’re going to come to Maine but you’re not allowed to leave your campsite, there’s no point in that,” said Mixon. “Driving by the state park is not fun at all.”

In Phippsburg, Kosalka said most of her guests spend their days at nearby Reid State Park, across the Kennebec River from Popham Beach, kayaking, walking on the beach or digging for clams.

“We’re hanging on the Governor’s every word just like everyone else,” said Kosalka. “The only thing that’s constant is the fact that everything changes all the time. We’ve been in business for 22 years and I know we’ll survive this, it’s just going to be a little harder.”

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