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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at MaineOutdoors@aol.com.

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Posted: January 14, 2019

Hiking in Maine: Still in search of a resolution? Resolve to volunteer at a land trust

Written by: Carey Kish

In the waning days of the old year I spent some quality time exploring some new-to-me preserves owned and managed by the Frenchman Bay Conservancy in the eastern reaches of Hancock County.

Buoyed as I was by the immense natural beauty and the miles of solitude, what captivated me most about those hikes were the little signs I noticed at each of the trailhead kiosks about weekly volunteer gatherings for trail work.

Every Wednesday morning throughout the summer and fall, volunteers meet at the conservancy’s headquarters at the Tidal Falls Preserve in Hancock. Under the direction of conservancy trail stewards and often accompanied by several conservancy board members, the group heads out for a half-day of trail work at one of the preserves in need of some care. No experience is required, just sturdy footwear, work gloves, appropriate clothing, and snacks and water.

What a brilliant idea, I thought as I sauntered along the pleasant paths of the Frances B. Wood Preserve, Corea Heath Preserve and Taft Point Preserve. A program of regularly scheduled work parties is a great way to pick away at the never-ending list of trail tasks that need doing, and an important avenue of community involvement of the most enjoyable and satisfying kind in Mother Nature’s beautiful classroom.

“Volunteers are integral to our stewardship efforts. There’s no way we could get everything done without them,” said Kat Deely, FBC’s land protection manager. “Trail work gives people a sense of ownership, a chance to give back to the land and be a part of it.”

Wednesday work days usually begin around mid-June and extend through the end of October. The work days shift to different preserves depending upon what needs to be done where, based upon a prioritized to-do list. The conservancy hires a seasonal land steward each year to manage the work, which is often done in partnership with crews from the Maine Conservation Corps.

“We get from five to ten volunteers every Wednesday,” Deely noted. “Volunteers get a safety orientation and instruction on the use of various trail tools. Then they work with gentle support and oversight.”

Typically, bow saws are employed for clearing brush, loppers for clipping back branches, and pick mattocks for drainage and erosion work. There’s also bog bridging that needs building across wet areas as well as construction of foot bridges over gullies and streams.

Notable projects last summer accomplished with volunteer help included new trails, bridges and stone steps at Jordan Homestead, the installation of water bars at Little Tunk Pond and the new Schoodic Bog Trail, a beautiful connection that allows for a four-mile loop hike using portions of the Downeast Sunrise Trail and Schoodic Connector Trail.

“We’re very pleased with both the response to the Wednesday work days and the results,” Deely said. “But with 30 miles of trails in our system, we could always use more help.”

Trails don’t just happen, but it’s easy to forget that fact sometimes when you’re sauntering along a nicely cleared and marked path to a lovely lakeshore or mountaintop viewpoint. We often take for granted the significant investment in human and material resources involved in every mile of trail we trod, from the parking lots and kiosks to the blazes and signs to the bog bridges, water bars and foot bridges.

The usual New Year’s resolutions aside, this hiker has resolved to contribute a little more time and energy to my local land trusts, not only in this coming year but in the years ahead. In the area where you live or like to hike and play outdoors, surely there’s a land trust (Maine has 95 of them, after all) that could use your help and would appreciate it beyond measure, so perhaps you too might consider doing the same.

In addition to Wednesdays, Frenchman Bay Conservancy holds clean-up days on the weekends in springtime to clear away winter damage. I know of a handful of other land trusts that also do midweek workdays, and many more that organize work trips on the weekends when more people are available, so opportunities abound.

Make it a great New Year by volunteering for some fun and highly satisfying trail work done in the company of kindred spirits. Find a land trust convenient to you by visiting the Maine Land Trust Network at mltn.org.

 

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