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What ever happened to the Maine DOT roadside rest areas?

When you think of a rest area in Maine today, you usually think of the Maine Turnpike areas in Kennebunk, Gray, Cumberland and West Gardiner. But there was a time when the Maine Department of Transportation maintained over 150 rest areas on roads across the state.

Each rest area was marked with a large brown sign with large yellow letters that said REST AREA. They all had picnic tables with covers to keep out the rain. They had charcoal grills available and most had bathrooms, although most were outbuildings.

In the 70s and 80s, these rest stops were almost everywhere you traveled. Some are still in operation today. But what happened?

In 1977, the Maine DOT operated over 150 roadside rest areas. According to the Bangor Daily News, in 2010 the Maine Department of Transportation operated more than 50 rest areas across the state, at a cost of about $2 million per year. Due to budget cuts, many rest areas have been closed over the years. While I was unable to determine the current number of rest areas MDOT operates, there could be even fewer than 50 today.

Although 100 or more of the rest areas have been closed by MDOT, you can still see where they once were.

This is located on Route 302 in Windham, just before the roundabout as you head west. It has been locked for many years with a gate and a sign saying “No Trespassing.”

This rest area was on the Harrison/Otisfield line. There is still parking and several picnic tables.

The rest area was in Grand Isle in Aroostook County. You can see where the empty post where the rest area sign would hang is.

The city of Raymond took over the closed rest area there and turned it into Raymond Veterans Memorial Park. It is located on the shores of Jordan Bay.

Snow Falls in West Paris, Maine, is one of the rest areas still maintained by MDOT. They even have a new sign. Snow Falls is a beautiful place to stop if you are traveling.

Budget cuts have closed nearly two-thirds of rest areas across Maine, and it is sad to see this unique piece of Maine lost to use.

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