Seasonal residents, and snowbirds, are finding their way to Maine

Portland Press Herald
Posted 2020-03-20

Seasonal Maine residents Barry and Jane DeNofrio decided to face the coronavirus threat at their ski home in Bridgton instead of their condo in Boxford, Massachusetts, because there’s more air and space in Maine.

On a hike the other morning, Barry DeNofrio said, “We didn’t come close to any people.”

That’s less likely to happen in Massachusetts.

Snowbirds and others with seasonal homes are making their way north earlier than usual – or in the DeNofrios’ case, staying after the ski season closes – as they seek out the calm and relative empty spaces of Maine during a time of chaos in more crowded places.

Barry DeNofrio said he and his wife don’t necessarily feel safer in Maine. Cumberland County is a hotspot of viral outbreaks, he noted. But there’s more room in Maine to keep your distance.

“My preference is, we are going to be here to ride this out. I just think it makes more sense. There is a lot more air and more space,” the retired school teacher said by phone from Bridgton on Wednesday afternoon.

The issue of seasonal residents coming to Maine for its perceived qualities as a safe haven were highlighted in an extraordinary way this week when the select board of the island community of North Haven voted to ban visitors and seasonal residents to prevent the spread of coronavirus on the island. It has since rescinded the order, on the advice of the governor’s office. A new resolution, adopted Wednesday, strongly urged people to refrain from traveling to the island, including contractors.

In other communities, tensions between locals and out-of-staters were evident in snippy social media posts, where year-round residents complained about people from New York and Massachusetts buying up food and supplies from local stores and treating a health crisis like a snow day at the ski resort.

Those tensions are common in the summer, during the height of tourism season, but unusual in March, during mud season.

Rob Synder, president of the Island Institute, addressed the issue of the coronavirus and the islands in his Field Notes column circulated electronically Thursday, acknowledging North Haven’s concerns but warning of the negative effects.

“For seasonal residents who thought they were neighbors and friends, the move to close off the island may seem like distrust and animosity, and could have a long-term detrimental impact on the community’s social fabric. Many who care about the Maine coast, but live elsewhere, are asking if they are still considered a part of the communities they love,” he wrote.

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