BANGOR, Maine — Al Larsen was a regular visitor to the Orono Bog Boardwalk when it opened several years ago. Now he’s a regular volunteer.
Many mornings, sometimes before dawn, Larsen arrives at the boardwalk inside the Bangor City Forest and watches the sun come up before he opens the gate to visitors. It’s as peaceful and beautiful a place as you can find, he said.
As the boardwalk gears up for its spring opening, Larsen and a small group of like-minded enthusiasts are hoping to create a Friends of Orono Bog Boardwalk. Last year’s unfortunate vandalism incident at the boardwalk underscored the need to have an organized and energized friends group to ensure the facility has a long-term future.
“It’s such a unique asset to this area,” Larsen said in a recent interview. “And it’s used by so many different types of people.”
An organizational meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20 at the Church of Universal Fellowship on Main Street. The group’s mission will be discussed and temporary officers and board members will be elected. Anyone interested in joining the friends group is welcome to attend, Larsen said.
Last year, an estimated 30,000 visitors walked the 1-mile loop that winds through the Orono Bog on a raised wooden walkway punctuated with benches and information displays about flora and fauna. Many of those were repeat visitors, which is great, Larsen said, but it also presents an opportunity to attract new visitors.
The newly formed Friends of the Orono Bog Boardwalk will promote growth and development of the facility and to develop and operate additional programs and events to increase awareness.
The bog itself was designated as a registered national landmark in 1974, but it wasn’t until 2000 that the idea of a boardwalk was born. University of Maine Professor Ron Davis initiated the project and, along with a group of of dedicated volunteers and generous donors, raised $175,000 to build the boardwalk.
The facility opened in 2003 as a joint venture of the City of Bangor, the University of Maine and the Orono Land Trust, and has been a popular spot ever since. Although the boardwalk has a group of volunteers committed to its future, it has never had a dedicated friends group. Other natural treasures, such as Acadia National Park, have thriving friends groups.
“We want to hear from people about ways we can improve what we already have there,” Larsen said.
In addition to the April 20 organizational meeting, Larsen said a news conference is scheduled for Friday, April 29 to announce the 2011 opening of the boardwalk on Sunday, May 1.
More information about the Orono Bog Boardwalk is available online at: www.oronobogwalk.org.