Maine’s spectacular lands are one of its greatest assets, providing untold benefits to our health and quality of life, as well as the economy, including tourism. A coalition of organizations and businesses that have worked to conserve many of these outdoor destinations and want more people to enjoy them has organized a new Maine tradition: a weekend full of guided programs to help people get outside.
Mainers and visitors alike can sample more than 70 introductory outings at no or low cost during the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend Sept. 28-30. There are chances to canoe, bird-watch, kayak, bike and take part in easy hikes and fun family activities.
For example, get outdoors in Washington County. Over the event weekend, start off by camping at Cobscook Bay State Park on Friday evening, Sept. 28, and wake up to the spectacular bay views. On Saturday, choose from some incredible daylong events. Paddle on Baskahegan Stream with Woodie Wheaton Land Trust from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Grand Lake Stream, or kayak to Sipp Bay in Perry with Cobscook Hikes and Paddles from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
If you seek a great day for the family, try Roque Bluffs State Park for its September by-the-sea celebration complete with a hiking treasure hunt, kayaking, kite-flying and even sand sculpture from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. On Sunday, try out a guided paddle tour on Big Musquash Stream with Downeast Lakes Land Trust from 9 a.m. to noon, explore the lighthouse at Quoddy Head State Park, and don’t forget to check out the Bold Coast for a short hike to incredible ocean vistas.
The people of Maine have always taken pride in our outdoor culture and enjoyed activities such as hiking, hunting, skiing, fishing and canoeing. Yet we’re at risk of losing these skills and experiences, especially among younger generations. With people of all ages, particularly children, spending more time in front of computers and other electronic devices there has been a decline in the time spent outdoors.
The Great Maine Outdoor Weekend seeks to introduce people who haven’t been active in the outdoors to new activities and to reconnect those whose busy lives have kept them from outdoor experiences they used to enjoy.
One noteworthy part of this second Great Maine Outdoor Weekend is that it highlights some of the remarkable places in Washington and Hancock counties that have been made accessible to the public within the past decade. Downeast Lakes Land Trust in Grand Lake Stream, for example, has worked successfully with partners (such as corporate landowners, foundations, public agencies, guides and sporting lodge owners) to keep 350,000 acres available for public recreation and sustainable forestry, including more than 450 miles of lakefront.
Other efforts Down East, led by Downeast Coastal Conservancy in Machias and its partners, have protected access to cherished community landmarks such as Mowry Beach in Lubec and Pigeon Hill in Steuben. A series of events has been scheduled for the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend for visitors to experience some of the most spectacular parts of Washington and Hancock counties while participating in new activities.
These successes Down East are similar to those in other parts of the state, where landowners and many conservation partners have teamed up to conserve traditional access to the land and encourage new recreational uses. For communities throughout Maine, this is a welcome contrast to the trend of land being posted “No Trespassing,” as new landowners, perhaps not aware of traditional uses, have shut off access. Even the posting of a short section of trail can mean the loss of a much larger route.
Maine residents should celebrate the chance to experience our wonderful natural settings throughout the state during the second Great Maine Outdoor Weekend, organized by the Maine Outdoor Coalition. A hawk watch, waterfall hikes, cider pressing, paddling outings and more are on the schedule. For a complete list of events, visit www.greatmaineoutdoorweekend.org.
Tess Ftorek of Eastport is a registered Maine Guide and co-owner of Cobscook Hikes and Paddles in Robbinston. Warren Whitney is land trust program manager for the statewide land conservation organization Maine Coast Heritage Trust, which is a member of the new Maine Outdoor Coalition.