The third Great Maine Outdoor Weekend will be celebrated Feb. 15-18, with a series of outdoor events held by organizations and businesses statewide.
Organized by the Maine Outdoor Coalition, the weekend’s goal is “to help Mainers take advantage of recreation lands and waters across the state and build a long-term relationship with nature,” according to the event website, greatmaineoutdoorweekend.org, where organizations are posting information about events daily.
Activities planned for the weekend include winter tree identification, animal tracking, bird watching, ice skating and ice fishing. And if snow conditions allow, the weekend will also provide people with the opportunity to go snowshoeing, sledding and cross-country skiing (during the day or night), or simply make a snowman and drink hot cocoa.
Many of the events will be free and will include instruction and introductory level activities.
“Great Maine Outdoor Weekend helps remind us of all the wonderful outdoor opportunities we have here — at a time of year when many people are starting to get cabin fever,” coalition member Scot Balentine of L.L. Bean said in a recent press release. “Participants can sample an activity they’ve never tried before or explore a place they’ve always wanted to visit. For many Mainers, it’s a great way for the whole family to share in a wonderful winter adventure outdoors.”
The second Great Maine Outdoor Weekend, held last September, included 82 planned events, hosted by 73 organizations (including 39 new hosts). And despite the rain that fell that weekend, the variety of outdoor events brought out 620 participants, and 62 percent of participants said they were new to the type of activity they tried during the weekend.
“I think these weekends have been extremely successful,” said Gary Best of the Maine Division of Parks and Public Lands. “And as far as what we’re trying to accomplish, we’re just giving people more encouragement and reasons to get outside and explore all the wonderful places we have here in Maine.”
At the September 2012 Great Outdoor Weekend, 57 percent of the participants were new to the organization hosting the event or the event location.
Best is part of the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend planning committee, which is made up by members of the Maine Outdoor Coalition, a network of organizations and businesses working together to connect more Mainers to the outdoors. The coalition includes organizations such as the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, Maine Island Trail Association and The Nature Conservancy, among many others.
“One of the great things the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend provides is publicity for places and organizations,” said Best, who recommends organizations looking to participate should submit their outdoor events as soon as possible at greatmaineoutdoorweekend.org. “If you go to the website, it’s very easy to list your event. Then you’ll start to receive emails of publicity information from the coalition.”
One of the big events being held during the long weekend is “Hooked on Fishing,” a children’s ice fishing derby from 8 a.m. to noon Monday, Feb. 18, at Range Pond State Park in Poland. The first 500 preregistered entries for children ages 12 and younger arriving before 10 a.m. will receive free ice fishing equipment donated by Kittery Trading Post. Free bait will also be provided for the big event.
“We’re even going to pre-drill all the holes,” said Best. “If there’s snow here, snowshoes will be available for folks, and there may be a small sliding area. There might even be a hot air balloon tethered to the ice if the weather cooperates and it isn’t too windy. It should be a blast.”
Many of the events are planned with the anticipation of scant snow cover. For example, if there’s no snow, ski and snowshoe activities will typically become hiking activities.
“Whether we have snow or whether we don’t, it’s still a lot of fun to get outside and go for a hike and explore,” Best said. “These events will certainly happen, and we still have a little bit of time before the weekend for it to snow.”
For information about Great Maine Outdoor Weekend events in your area, visit greatmaineoutdoorweekend.org.