BANGOR, Maine — Ethan Harding had to dissuade the “from away” members of his Maine Conservation Corps team of the notion that “killer bears” populate the north Maine woods.
“Some of them think the forest is a dark, mysterious place they shouldn’t go into,” Harding, 19, of Jackson said Saturday. “I had to show them that it was not a big deal to go out and walk in the woods. I showed them how it’s always a good time.”
Chris Tinkham, 19, of Waterboro said he tried to warn people from Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia that Maine can get cold, even in summer months. He also taught them some Maine words such as “corkah.”
“So, when we had to move a really big rock, they’d all say, ‘This one’s a corkah,’” he explained.
Harding and Tinkham are part of a seven-person crew working to remove wooden sections of the Orono Bog Boardwalk. If new sections, made of composite wood decking on aluminum framing and stainless steel legs, arrive before Thursday, the Conservation Corps team will install them.
Jim Bird, director of the boardwalk, said Saturday that teams from the corps installed the original wooden boardwalk in 2002 and 2003. So, when it was time to begin replacing the original sections, it made sense to call on the corps again. The boardwalk, normally open until after Thanksgiving, closed Wednesday so the work could begin.
Funded by AmeriCorps, the MCC marked its 30th anniversary this year. Its mission is to:
• Build and rehabilitate campsites and trails.
• Build outdoor learning centers for schools.
• Construct cabins, picnic shelters, bridges and erosion control structures.
• Maintain boundaries, improve wildlife habitat and timber stands.
• Survey watersheds, test water quality and oversee planting projects.
The corps is part of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, which is a division of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. It was modeled after the 80-year-old Civilian Conservation Corps.
Other MCC teams are working this fall at Wolfe Neck Woods in Freeport, Lily Pond Community Forest in Bath and Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land in T1 R11, according to information posted on the bureau’s website.
Harding said he learned about the corps from an older brother who served in the MCC.
“I thought it would be a good fit for me,” he said. “The best thing has been being able to work outdoors.”
That is why a lot of people from around the country join, Jevin Hoeper, crew supervisor, said Saturday. Hoeper, 25, of Cincinnati, Ohio, said the crew began working together in mid-August and will finish up Thursday. In addition to working on the boardwalk, his team worked in Aroostook State Park and Baxter State Park.
In addition to working outside, corps members earn scholarship money, Hoeper said. He will use his to pay off student loans while those just out of high school can use it to attend colleges, universities or trade schools. They also receive a weekly stipend to buy food and other necessities.
Team members have either camped in tents near job sites or stayed in cabins, as they did at Baxter State Park. While working in Bangor, the group is staying at the Bangor Police Athletic League building in Essex Woods Park.
During their off time, team members have climbed Mount Katahdin, watched the sun rise from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park and visited Moosehead Lake, Hoeper said.
The corps’ first task at Orono Bog Boardwalk was to replace 400 deck boards on sections 106 to 509, Bird said Saturday. As part of the preparation to remove the sections, the crew had to take off the chains that held them together and remove the side railings on the sections to be replaced. Crew members also removed two interpretive stations.
On Saturday, the crew began removing the sections themselves and the floats on which some of them rested. Bird examined the bottom of each section to determine whether the wood had rotted over the years or it could be reused. Rotten sections were to be disposed of by Bangor Public Works.
It is the first phase of a three-year project to replace all of the decking. The cost of construction for each phase is estimated at $225,000, according to Bird.
Hoeper said the team was being careful to disturb the bog as little as possible. Workers don’t step on the bog itself but instead stand on boards, which will allow the peat beneath to grow back naturally next spring, he said.
Harding said Saturday that he wants his teammates from away to go home and tell their family and friends what a beautiful state Maine is, but he’s not sure he wants them to move here.
“We have enough people here, I think,” he said.