The University of Maine was recently named champion of the Northeast in a month-long challenge to get people outdoors and active.
Running from mid-September through mid-October, the competition was called the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education Campus Challenge. Participants earned points for their school by engaging in a wide variety of outdoor activities, which they logged on a free mobile app.
“We had people out stargazing, gardening and birdwatching,” said Chris Bartram, assistant director for Maine Bound Adventure Center at UMaine. “And then we had people go out on multi-day trips, sea kayaking along the coast and climbing big cliffs around the state.”
With more than 1,000 people participating in the challenge for UMaine, the university came in second in the nation, outcompeted by just one school: Texas Woman’s University.
“They took the lead on the first day, and they held it for the rest of the contest,” Bartram said.
Nearly 100 schools signed up for the contest, with 82 actually logging points. To become Northeast champion, UMaine beat Plymouth State University, Lees-McRae College, University of New Hampshire, University of Vermont, University of Massachusetts at Boston and Boston University.
To encourage students, faculty, alumni and community members to participate, UMaine hosted eight events, including a paddling event with free boat rentals, a night-time trail run and rock climbing instruction. The events were attended by about 800 people, Bartram said.
“I just think it’s really special to highlight that Maine has this deep connection and enthusiasm for outdoor recreation, and we continue to grow that community here,” Bartram said.
The association also recognized individuals for their participation in the challenge, including UMaine senior Sierra Yost, who won Individual Environmental Champion for biking to class rather than driving a vehicle, an effort that lowered her carbon footprint.
“The challenge inspired me to bike more and track my commutes,” said Yost, a chemical engineering major who lives off campus in Orono. “It’s easier to hop in my car, but it’s doable to bike if I plan ahead.”
This is the second year that UMaine has won Northeast champion for this campus challenge, which was started in 2014 by the Outdoor Foundation, a nonprofit established by the Outdoor Industry Association. The contest went on a hiatus in 2018, then was revived in 2019 by the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.
“We definitely had a lot more participation this year [than in 2017],” Bartram said. “I’d say double. So that’s great. I’ll be eager to see if [AORE] hosts it next year and if the university wants to compete again.”