Maine’s numerous boat launching sites are an essential resource for those who enjoy spending a day or weekend on the water.

Unfortunately, finding information about those facilities has never been a simple thing.

Many boaters found they could check maps and find the information they sought … only to arrive at a lake or pond and find that the information was old and outdated.

Goodbye, weekend on the lake.

Hello, frustration.

Not any more.

On Saturday, Patrick McGowan, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation, unveiled a new product that the DOC created at the urging of L.L. Bean’s John Oliver.

It’s a map … sort of.

It’s a Web site … sort of.

And after viewing it, you’ll be excused if you decide that it’s nearly magical.

The DOC has tapped into the power of Google Earth technology in order to pinpoint the location of every state-funded public recreational launch facility in the state.

Using the new product is simple (and free).

First, go to Google Earth and download the necessary program.

Then go to the DOC site (www.maine.gov/doc/) and click on the link to initiate the boat launch program.

Once there, you’ll find all kinds of features. You can look at satellite images of the site in question, learn more about what kind of craft can launch there and find out how much parking is available.

If you know what lake you want to fish, you can plug that water into a search engine and get launch site options.

And if you don’t know how to get there, the program will even provide driving directions.

Users will be able to learn more about 456 boat-launch facilities in all 16 counties. A total of 366 of those sites are on fresh water, while 90 are on saltwater.

McGowan unveiled the product on Saturday at L.L. Bean’s annual Spring Fishing Expo in Freeport.

“This was John’s [Oliver’s] idea to do this.,” McGowan said. ”He kayaks with his wife and son all over the state of Maine and has said, along with the chairman of the L.L. Bean board, Leon Gorman, ‘We really need to find out where all these [boat launches] are, because there are hundreds of them.’”

McGowan said producing maps and lists of the state’s available recreational areas has become a priority, and the DOC is moving forward in an effort to let people know where they can go to enjoy public outdoor lands.

Paul Jacques and John Boland of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife also praised the project, as did Oliver and state Rep. David Webster (D-Freeport).

“As you know, the people of Maine are very passionate about access to their natural resources and the lakes and ponds and 32,000 miles of rivers and streams belong to the people of Maine,” said Jacques, the deputy commissioner of the DIF&W. “Someone telling you that they belong to the people of the state of Maine is one thing, but being able to get on them is another.”

Boating outlook positive

Turn on your TV or leaf through your morning newspaper and you’re likely to find a story or six about the nation’s struggling economy.

Vendors at the Bangor Boating and Marine Show, which was held at the Bangor Auditorium over the weekend, recognized that times are tough, but said that customers are still shopping … and buying.

“The market has changed,” admitted Frank Michaud, a salesman for Hamlin’s Marine. “The guys aren’t buying the 25 and 30 and $40,000 boats. They’re buying the 12 to $20,000 boat. And people are going to recreate and do things as a family, instead of taking that trip for 4, 5, $6,000. They’re investing in a boat that they’re going to use for a number of years.”

Steve York, the general manager of Port Harbor Marine, said the Bangor show had been a busy one for him and his staff.

“The Bangor market has been great. We’ve had a very successful show this year, more successful than last year,” York said. “Many factory specials are helping. Manufacturers are doing quite a bit. They realize that it’s tough times and it takes a little bit more incentive to motivate a customer to make a choice.”

Vendors also said that a decision by show organizers to allow vendors to display older “holdover” models helped generate sales at this year’s Bangor expo.

“Most people don’t care if their boat’s a year old, two years old, or whatever,” said Patrick Jude, the general manager of Branch Pond Marine. “As long as the warranty’s still good, they haven’t changed the model significantly — or if they have, they still like the old one just as well — they’ll go with it.”

Amid all the economic bad news, it’s nice to hear a bit of good for a change.

Youth club banquet set

For the past several years, Maine’s Youth Fish and Game Association has provided quality programming and outdoor opportunities for the children of the Penobscot Valley.

Now the club is looking for your help.

The club, which has a facility on Pickerel Pond outside of Milford, is holding its annual banquet and auction on April 4 at the Old Town Elks Club.

The evening promises to be a lot of fun, with events for kids and adults on tap.

Doors open at 4:30 p.m. and a silent auction will be held from 4:30-8. A ham dinner is scheduled for 5-6:30 p.m., and the live auction begins after the dinner dishes are cleared.

Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children and free for kids under 6.

To learn more about auction items or the club, go to www.maineyouthfishandgame.org.

jholyoke@bangordailynews.net

990-8214

John Holyoke

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their...