By Greg Westrich
Special to The Weekly
The Orono Land Trust has raised enough money to purchase the Dorion Property that lies between its Newman Hill land and land owned by the University of Maine. The land is on the north side of Newman and Bangor hills. The tract is accessible from the Newman Hill trail or the Veazie Railroad bed.
The area offers some of the best cross-country skiing in the Bangor area. There is a 4-mile groomed loop as well as a smaller loop for skate skiing that extends from the Newman Hill Preserve into the Dorion tract. There is a lot more “up and down” on these trails than on the Bangor City Forest or the University of Maine trails.
According to Buck Owen, avid skier and OronoLand Trust board member, it’s “the one place you can go to do hill work.” The route of the annual Great Caribou Bog Ski Race, to be held on Feb. 24, passes through the Dorion Property.
In the summer, the ski trail makes for a nice hike, with even the possibility of a view of Mount Katahdin. The ponds at the base of the hills that once were used to commercially raise bait fish are now one of the best places in the region to find nesting grebes and other water birds.
The Caribou Bog is considered one of the most significant bog complexes in the state, extending from Newman Hill over to Pushaw Lake and down to the Orono Bog Boardwalk and the Bangor City Forest. There are various trails through and around the bog, but much of the land remains working forest.
A large section of the bog east of Pushaw Lake’s south end is owned either by the Orono Land Trust or the state. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife tract was acquired with help from the Land Trust.
The area is steeped in history as well. The Veazie Railroad bed is the second oldest in the country. Nearby, at the south end of Pushaw Lake, the Niben Club was built around the turn of the 19th-20th centuries. The club was part of the bicycle craze of the time, and club members built graded and even boardwalked trails through the bog and the surrounding area, extending to Bangor.
As cars became more popular and road access to the area improved, the trail system declined; no sign of it exists today. In 1924 the large clubhouse lodge burned. It was replaced by Villa Vaughn, a dance hall and roller rink. In 1980 the site became a campground now called Pushaw Lake Campground.
The Orono Land Trust’s interest in preserving the area stems both from the property’s continued recreational value and as part of the larger Caribou Bog-Penjajawoc Project, which hopes to preserve a corridor from Essex Woods in Bangor to the Hirundo Reserve at the north end of Pushaw Lake.
Right now the corridor is a patchwork of protected land, wood lots, and private property. The recreational opportunities improve each year. The Orono Land Trust’s acquisition of the Dorion Property is another step in that process.