Mainers will be bombarded with 80 outdoor events this weekend during the second Great Maine Outdoor Weekend, and participation in most of these activities is free or by donation.
The statewide celebration will hit every county Friday through Sunday. People can explore the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Aroostook County or walk through the woods on the southern tip of Maine; hike along the Down East’s Bold Coast or to Piazza Rock near Rangeley.
The idea is to get people outside to enjoy the crisp air of early fall. With the support from the Maine Outdoor Coalition, groups across the state are hosting a wide variety of events, from traditional fall outings, such as paddles and mushroom walks, to more unusual offerings such as kite flying and rock climbing.
“Part of our goal is to get folks who don’t normally get outside to get out and try some of these activities,” said event organizer Lindsay Bourgoine of the Appalachian Mountain Club.
The Fields Pond Audubon Center in Holden will be hosting a full-blown celebration on Saturday, Sept. 29, with ongoing activities and scheduled events including nature walks, geocaching, pondside yoga, a challenge course to the marsh, cider and suet making, canoeing and live music.
“We know we’ve got a lot of folks who come here all the time and love this place, and we always love to have them come,” said Matthew Dubel, director of Fields Pond Audubon Center. “But what we’re really hoping is that folks who haven’t been here before — or maybe don’t spend a lot of their leisure time outdoors — will stop by and give it a try. We’ve got such a variety of things to do in the outdoors in Maine. It might be a new discovery for you and your family, something you love to do. We’re just really happy to help people explore those possibilities.”
Just as many events were planned for the first Maine Outdoor Weekend, which was held in early March, but only about 700 people braved the bad weather — drizzle turning snow to slush.
“The first round of Great Maine Outdoor Weekend events didn’t get a lot of participation the way folks were hoping,” Dubel said. “But if this lovely end-of-September weather holds, we’re going to have a much better turnout.”
So how do you decide what to attend? Events can be searched by county, activity or date at greatmaineoutdoorweekend.org.
“We’re trying to advertise what already exists here in Maine, but we asked groups to lower the cost barrier a little,” said Bourgoine, who estimated that 75 percent of the events are being offered for free. “We’re not trying to encourage people not to make money, but a lot of them can offer something free once or twice a year.”
For example, Acadia Mountain Guides is offering 3-hour, family climb — a value of $269 — for $25-$45 on Saturday, Sept. 29, at popular climbing locales in Acadia National Park.
“We are trying to say, ‘Come out. If you’ve been nervous and the price has stopped you, this is a great opportunity,’” said Elisabeth Dean, operations manager of Acadia Mountain Guides. “This is also great because this is local people coming out and using our natural resources. We’re so lucky to have Acadia in our backyard.”
The guides are offering two time slots, 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m., and will provide all equipment. Reservations will be accepted through Friday, Sept. 28, at 888-232-9559.
“We love to take out people — how do I say this — people who think they can’t do it,” Dean said. “Because when they go climbing with us, we encourage them to do their best. And many times people climb and come back with an enormous smile on their face and a feeling that they’ve really conquered a fear.”
Approximately 50 percent of the people who participated in the first Great Maine Outdoor Weekend were new to the organization or place hosting the activity, according to a poll conducted by the Maine Outdoor Coalition.
The Maine Outdoor Coalition is a group of more than 30 organizations and businesses that are working together to connect more Mainers to the outdoors. And the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend planning team was made up of representatives of six of those partners: Appalachian Mountain Club, Maine Division of Parks and Public Lands, Maine Recreation and Park Association, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, L.L.Bean and WinterKids.
“The group has been getting together and thinking about how we can affect change in getting people outside in the state for a while — thinking of what we could do to really show what already goes on,” said Bourgoine. “A lot of land trusts do walks every weekend. That’s kind of our point.”
The second Great Maine Outdoor Weekend coincides with National Public Lands Day, and many of the events will be held on public lands that are open year-round, including several state parks.
The weekend has a special focus on Down East’s natural treasures, including the Bold Coast and Down East Lakes Region. More than 15 events are planned for Washington and Hancock counties. Sample itineraries for Down East events can be found at greatmaineoutdoorweekend.org/wet-wild-washington-county.
Event organizers plan to continue showcases specific regions of Maine, such as Aroostook County and the western Maine mountains, during future Great Maine Outdoor Weekends. The third Great Maine Outdoor Weekend, a statewide selection of winter events, is scheduled for President’s Day weekend.
For information about Great Maine Outdoor Weekend, visit www.greatmaineoutdoorweekend.org, where events can be searched by date, activity or county. New events are being added daily so check back close to Friday for a complete list.