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It took seven years for 120 volunteers, who worked more than 4,000 hours, to replace the original wooden sections of the Orono Bog Boardwalk with more durable plastic composite one at a cost of $1.56 million.
The final section, number 349 of 509, was installed on July 3, according to Director Jim Bird. An open house was held Saturday and Sunday to thank donors and volunteers for their financial support and labor.
Each year, between 27,000 and 30,000 visitors come the boardwalk, which is open between May and November. People have come from all 50 states and at least 50 countries.
The last section, located at the number 6 information station, had to be custom built to fit the spot. It is 6-feet long and a different shape than the other 8-foot sections, Bird said Saturday. Great Northern Dock of Naples constructed the sections.
“This is going to be a lot easier to maintain and make leveling a whole lot easier,” he said. “The sections have powder coated aluminum siding and the footers are attached to the sections so they don’t move as easily.”
Phil Locke, 82, of Bangor spent a lot of time doing maintenance on the old sections of the boardwalk, made of hemlock, which was completed in 2003. The slats had to be replaced often due to rot and, occasionally, carpenter ants.
“The old boardwalk, it was going fast,” he said Saturday. “Toward the end, it was barely held together with spit and glue.”
Locke said he still will lead tours and enjoy the boardwalk but won’t miss getting down on his hands and knees to do repairs.
Planning and fundraising to replace the wooden sections began in 2010. The replacement was done primarily in May, June and October, which delayed the opening and closing of boardwalk over the past seven years.
The boardwalk is jointly managed by the University of Maine, the Orono Land Trust and the city of Bangor. It is located in the Bangor City Forest off Stillwater Avenue. It is a short drive from the Bangor Mall and the Hogan Road commercial corridor.
“This is a really unique amenity for a city to have,” Tracy Willette, director of Bangor’s Parks and Recreation Department said Saturday. To come through the mall area and in less than 10 minutes be in this unspoiled area is pretty amazing.”
Adrienne Leppold, 40, of Bangor began volunteering at the boardwalk 11 years ago when she moved to the ares to attend graduate school at the University of Maine. She is now the songbird specialist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife but still spent a lot of time working on the replacement of the original boardwalk.
“I like to get dirty, play in the muck and be with nature,” Leppold, who had binoculars hung around her neck, said Saturday. “This is one of my favorites places to bird in the state because it’s close and there are so many kinds of songbirds here. It’s just a little gem of a place.”
The Orono Bog Boardwalk will be open until the Sunday after Thanksgiving and open May 1, 2020. Hours are: 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. through Labor Day but are reduced as the daylight hours diminish in the fall. The boardwalk is handicapped accessible. Only service dogs are allowed. For information, visit https://umaine.edu/oronobogwalk/.