Maine state parks launch outdoor ‘party on wheels’

Forty-four pairs of rental snowshoes donated by L.L.Bean are organized in the new Maine State Parks Ski and Snowshoe Trailer on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. A maintenance crew is completing the trailer’s storage bins for cross-country ski boots and poles for the trailer’s official launch at the Cobscook State Park Family Fun Day scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21.
Bruce Farnham
Forty-four pairs of rental snowshoes donated by L.L.Bean are organized in the new Maine State Parks Ski and Snowshoe Trailer on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. A maintenance crew is completing the trailer’s storage bins for cross-country ski boots and poles for the trailer’s official launch at the Cobscook State Park Family Fun Day scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21.
Posted Jan. 11, 2012, at 12:45 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 12, 2012, at 3:52 p.m.

Snow is a nuisance, say hibernating Mainers, while the snow rompers of the Pine Tree State crave every inch that buries their driveways. In January, without snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, they’re stir crazy.

The good news is that it’s statistically improbable that this kind of weather will keep up. It is winter in Maine, after all. Snow will come. And when that winter storm coats the land in a fresh layer of snow, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands is ready to roll out their new “party on wheels,” the Maine State Parks Ski and Snowshoe Trailer.

This equipment-packed vehicle’s debut will be at the Cobscook State Park Family Fun day on Saturday, Jan. 21, but due to scant snowfall, the event may be pushed to the following Saturday, Jan. 28.

“We want to be able to arrive at a state park and break down the barriers,” said the project organizer Gary Best, state parks assistant regional director of the southern region. “Why aren’t people getting outside in the winter? Why aren’t they coming out? One of the reasons is that they don’t have the gear. Well, no problem, when this trailer lands somewhere, we’re going to be able to outfit 110 people.”

The trailer holds 44 pairs of snowshoes, 67 sets of cross-country skis (including skis for small children), ski boots and ski poles.

Throughout the next two months, the trailer will be stationed at state park Winter Family Fun Days throughout Maine, and rentals will be free. For other events, equipment rental will cost just $5 per day, but renters will be limited to exploring whatever beautiful state park the trailer is visiting that day.

“We really just want people to connect and rediscover state parks during all four seasons,” Best said. “It’s a totally different feel and look and experience in the winter, even if you’re intimately connected to a park in the summer.”

He hopes that the trailer will entice people into the snowy Maine woods by making it easy for them to enjoy winter activities.

After launching at Cobscook State Park, the trailer will be driven to Mount Blue State Park  for the Feb. 4 Family Fun Day. After that, the plan is to stop at various state parks on the drive back down south.

“Some of this is going to be snow driven,” Best said. “I am really hopeful that February and March are going to be nice and snowy so we can get out and play with this equipment. The trailer is going to follow the snow.”

The new state parks resource didn’t cost taxpayers a cent. A $4,900 grant from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund kicked off the project in the spring, and several local sponsors provided the remaining funds and additional resources. Wicked Joe Coffee Roasting Co. in Brunswick donated $4,000; L.L.Bean donated the 44 pairs of snowshoes; and Maine Winter Sports Center offered skis at a drastically discounted price.

“We’re really doing the final touches right now,” Best said. “The maintenance team is just today finishing up the storage components.”

The sponsor logos will be painted on the back of the trailer. On the sides of the trailer will be colorful graphics of snowshoeing and skiing families, along with the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands logo. Passersby won’t be able to miss it.

And if you are one of those hibernating Mainers who don’t know how to snowshoe or cross-country ski, have no fear. The folks in the Maine state park system are thinking of you, too.

“Last week we had our second training session for staff and volunteers by Maine Winter Sports Center, a big partner in all of this,” Best said.

Instructors of the center spent the day at Mount Blue State Park teaching park staff and volunteers who will be manning the trailer pointers on snowshoeing and skiing techniques, safety tips, and how to get people in the right size equipment.

A big reason some people don’t go outside in the winter is because they’ve never learned the activities that make winter outings fun and the cold weather bearable — and snowfall, a sight for sore eyes.

If interested in being involved with the State Parks Ski and Snowshoe Trailer or volunteering at state parks, contact a state park near you or visit www.parksandlands.com, where you can also view an event calendar to see which park the trailer will be visiting next.

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this story contained an error. The Family Fun Day event on Feb. 4 is at Mount Blue State Park, not Aroostook State Park. The Family Fun Day at Aroostook State Park is on Feb. 25.

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