The fallback answer, as it has been for nearly three months now, is we just don’t know.
While states across New England have begun loosening some of the travel and attraction restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the announcement that the borders are, once again, “open for business” still seems to be on the distant horizon.
Summer activities such as hiking, kayaking, golf, fishing, and mountain biking are inherently capable of adhering to the social distancing guidelines that have become the norm in our lives. But gaining access to those pastimes is a trickier avenue.
Case in point; the Sunday River Golf Club opened on June 1, and is currently booking tee times and group trips. However, out-of-state visitors planning a trip to Newry must also follow Maine’s protocol of a 14-day quarantine. It is the same requirement being requested in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
Hotels, inns, and other lodging properties have begun to ease some of the restrictions that have kept them shuttered since March. As of late last month, lodging operations in the state of Vermont were allowed to resume limited operations. According to the state’s COVID-19 Recovery Resource Center, “Lodging operations, short-term rentals, campgrounds and marinas may accept overnight reservations from Vermont residents, those who have met the minimum quarantine requirement, and essential employees allowed under the original Stay Home, Stay Safe order. Operators may require a copy of a Vermont drivers license or a signed document from the guest(s) attesting they meet the quarantine requirement.”
New Hampshire is still urging potential visitors to remain in their home state for the time being, but is also requesting a two-week quarantine for those who do end up traveling to the state. State parks were open to New Hampshire residents as of May 1, with a number of guidances to follow. Massachusetts, currently in Phase One of its own reopening plan, has released a list of directives in regard to outdoor recreation. Beaches, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting all come with reopening standards, including limiting occupants of a raft or kayak to a single household group.
What this all means for some of New England’s most popular attraction outlets still remains to be seen. While in-state guests can begin to enjoy some summer activities, just when any normal, open travel parameters will return is unknown. All parks and beaches are currently open to residents in Rhode Island, as is outdoor entertainment on a limited basis. Restaurants have also been allowed to have indoor dining at up to 50 percent capacity. Parks are open n Connecticut, for solitary use, but lodging for leisure or vacation is still prohibited.
So, while some things may be lightening up, it by no means guarantees a normal summer. Popular attractions such as Story Land, Six Flags, and Santa’s Village are in operational limbo due to the government’s restrictions on gathering in groups. However, the Mount Washington Auto Road, looks to have as many cars as it can handle navigating the windy path to the highest point in New England, this summer. “Thankfully, we have a perfect attraction for our new socially-distanced world,” marketing director Crispin Battles said.
In northern Vermont, Jay Peak Resort has found an inventive way to attract visitors, offering an extended-stay vacation (complete with one season pass for the Jay Peak Championship Golf Course and a family pass to the heated pool on Tramside), starting at $1,799 for the first month. Out-of-state guests booking prior to June 15 will be required to sign a state-issued form on arrival confirming that he or she has quarantined in Vermont for the mandatory 14 days. It also asks on the site: “Please do not plan a visit to the resort prior to June 15th if you are not a Vermont resident or cannot confirm that you have completed the quarantine period.”
That quarantine plea will be an expected refrain, no matter where you’re looking to travel this summer.
When it will all go back to normal, even as the summer months beckon in our immediate future…well, nobody has an answer for that quite yet.
Consider outdoor recreation open for the season, but limited. The better the coronavirus recovery numbers appear as the weeks tick on, so too will the relaxation on restrictions.
Much like everything else over the past 10 weeks, summer in New England is in a wait-and-see pattern. It’s one with, finally, some semblance of optimism though.
We still don’t know, but we’re learning more. At least that’s something.