Friday, August 18, 2017

First Annual Windham Trails Day creates a sense of community and stewardship by Lorraine Glowczak

The Windham Parks and Recreation Department in collaboration with Maine Alpine Guiding, hosted the first annual Windham Trails Day on Saturday, August 12 at Lowell Nature Preserve in East Windham and Donna Lippman Park on Route 302. The morning consisted of cleaning the trails of natural debris, followed by a free BBQ at noon and a free workshop on subjects such as mountaineering, ice climbing and hiking from Maine Alpine Guiding. Participants also received free t-shirts.
Although one goal was to remove branches, brush and weeds from the trails, there were otherobjectives in mind that included bringing people together to foster community and a love of the outdoors.  “The primary goal was met on Saturday,” stated Linda Brooks, Director of Parks and Recreation . . . that being to have people come together and volunteer for the community and, in return, have some good food and fellowship.”

Molly Bennett, the Park Ranger Intern reiterated Brooks’ sentiments. “Even though there were a small number of people there, there was the sense of friendship and community between the participants,” Bennett said. “When I was out on the trails working with others, people were learning about each other and laughing together in minutes. They were even helping each other identify plants and swapping stories about wildlife sightings in Windham. Some local Girl Scout troop leaders seemed like they enjoyed the event and hopefully will use Lowell Preserve and Maine Alpine Guiding in their own troop activities.”

The idea to have a Windham Trails Day was the brainchild of Rick Charity, owner and guide of Maine Alpine Guiding, a new guiding and eco-tourism company in Windham. “He called us and told us about his company and that he would like to organize a day for trail work and community,” Bennett continued. “I started working on it that same day. We set it on August 12 so that we would have time to publicize the event over the summer, but next year we are hoping to have it in June to
coincide with National Trails Day.”

For next year’s event, the hope is to expand the offerings by incorporating a 5k race with Baxter Outdoors, a company that does trail races throughout Maine and is also a brewery. In fact, conversations with Baxter Outdoors are already in the works. “Adam Platz, from Baxter Outdoors, is excited about the idea and we are working together to plan a trail race, which should attract outdoor enthusiasts around Maine,” Bennett said.

Maine Outdoor Guiding, an outdoor adventure program that includes advanced expedition style adventures to Mt. Katahdin and ice climbing explorations in Graton Notch and which is also a Licensed/Master Level Adventure Therapy Program hopes to be a part of next year’s event again.
It’s important to Windham Parks and Recreation to include local businesses to be a part of this yearly event. “We will encourage local businesses to join Maine Alpine Guiding in helping to make this a great event,” Brooks began. “And we will hope to collaborate with other entities to expand the offerings next year.”

Both Bennett and Brooks are discussing various ideas that could possibly be part of future trail day events. Thoughts discussed so far include, but are not limited to, mountain bike racing, live music, bounce house and more, to encourage a more community members to have fun while also being a steward to the trails.

One participant, Cindy Murphy, often walks the trails at the 308 acre Lowell Preserve and wanted to help out so others can enjoy the trail too. “I like hiking in Lowell Preserve,” she said. “I like the idea of repairing the trails and keeping it safe for others.”
Bennett stated that the Annual Trails Day Event would also be a good opportunity for scouts to earn
badges and do community service, as well as high school students who need community service hours to graduate.

SymondsFoundations@myfairpoint.netAs for the actual clearing of the trails, a lot was completed at the two locations in the three hour time-frame that was dedicated to the nature paths. “We got pretty much all that we wanted done at Lowell Preserve, although it is a big property with a lot of room for improvement in mapping, signage, and more,” explained Bennett. “Lippman Park got a lot done with trash pickup and brush trimming with help from the Lions Club.  For Linda and me, this event is not so much about the amount of work completed as a sense of community and a celebration of the outdoors.  I was inspired by their attendance and hard work.”

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