Showing posts with label Loon Echo Land Trust. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Loon Echo Land Trust. Show all posts

Friday, May 10, 2024

Wellness Walk inspires students at Raymond Elementary School

By Ed Pierce

Outdoor experiences have been proven to help improve academic and physical performance for many students and that’s the concept behind RSU 14’s Wellness Program. To demonstrate the benefits of being outdoors, Raymond Elementary School hosted a special Wellness Walk and Nature Talk on Tuesday, May 7.

Loon Echo Land Trust Executive Director
Matt Markot leads Raymond Elementary
School students on a Wellness Walk
and Nature Talk around Frog Pond in
Raymond on Tuesday, May 7. His visit
to the school is part of an effort by the
RSU 14 Wellness Program to inspire
children to get outside and love nature.
According RSU 14 Wellness Coordinator Donna Morton, Loon Echo Land Trust Executive Director Matt Markot led students on the walk and promoted the idea that being outside is one of the best things that students can do.

Morton said Markot guided the students around Frog Pond near the school and answered their questions about the environment surrounding the pond and how it affects all of them every day.

“Not only did they learn about the eco system, but they also learned about how nature makes them feel better,” Morton said. “Hopefully it builds a lifelong love of the outdoors for the students.”

Markot was a great choice to lead the walk for the students. Prior to joining Loon Echo Land Trust in 2017, he worked for the Nature Conservancy in Maine as its Northern Maine Lands Steward, and he served as an AmeriCorps Environmental Steward with the Maine Natural Areas Program, and as an environmental educator at Kieve-Wavus. He’s been the land trust’s Executive Director since 2019.

The intent of having him come and talk to the students about nature and the outdoors is to have them love and care for nature,” Morton said.

The Frog Pond Trail at Raymond Elementary School is a family trail about 1.93 miles in length of easy to moderate terrain centered around a scenic nature pond. The trail offers a short walk to a pond with easy access for the whole family that connects to a trail network extending into the woods.

During the pandemic, the school set up an outdoor classroom space near the pond and other spots for teachers to gather with students for learning activities outdoors and Markot’s walk with students fit right into that outdoors theme.

The RSU 14 Wellness Program strives to show that time spent learning and playing in nature benefits the whole child and can help children attain their full potential.

Spending time in nature enhances educational outcomes by improving children’s academic performance, focus, behavior and love of learning, Morton said.

“Get Outdoors is the RSU 14 Wellness Theme for May,” she said. “There are so many benefits to bringing nature into wellness. Time outside brings mental and physical health. It elevates our moods while lowering blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and stress. Being outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping to build strong bones and our immune systems. It just feels good.”

For children, access to safe, natural areas can enhance children’s physical and mental health, from improving cardiovascular vitality and weight management to reducing stress and ADHD symptoms. In addition, regular access to high-quality green space inspires strong connections to the natural world.

Morton says that outdoor play is not only beneficial, but also crucial for the brain's healthy development. Research studies have shown that the frontal cortex, which is responsible for controlling emotions and problem solving, is activated during playtime and imaginative play and child development go hand in hand.

Another area addressed by children being outdoors is childhood obesity. Morton says children playing outdoors are running, jumping, climbing, squatting, and rolling which are great forms of exercise and assist in motor skills development, a better sense of balance, and enhancing bone strength. And safe and protected exposure to sunlight helps keep children’s immune systems strong, Morton said. <

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

New trail opens in Raymond Community Forest

At the ribbon cutting. The trail, "Grape Expectations",
is named for the wild grapes the grow abundantly in the area
By Briana Bizier

A cold, wintery mix of rain and sleet didn’t stop a group of devoted outdoors-loving hikers and bikers from celebrating the opening of a new trail with a joyful ribbon cutting ceremony on Sunday, November 24. The new trail is part of Loon Echo Land Trust’s Raymond Community Forest, a 356 acre permanently conserved area off Conesca Road in Raymond, and it is open to pedestrians and mountain bikes.

This may not be the best weather,” said Jon Evans, Loon Echo’s Stewardship and Volunteer Coordinator. “But this is a great day for Loon Echo Land Trust.” of the trails on Loon Echo’s land have been inherited from the land’s previous uses, Evans told the crowd. Being able to design and build a trail from the ground up was a very exciting opportunity. This new trail adds a pleasant one-mile extension to the existing Spiller Homestead Loop, a flat and mild trail in the lower Raymond Community Forest that’s easily accessible for even the tamest hikers. 
The new trail expands on the previous loop and offers several bridges over marshy sections of the
community forest.

As the crowd applauded, Evans handed a wooden plaque to Dave Dowler, who spearheaded the trail building efforts. Dowler turned the plaque over and revealed the name of the new trail: Grape Expectations.

When Loon Echo Land Trust analyzed the potential trail site, Evans explained, they discovered an abundance of summer grape, a native grape species. Raymond is on the far northern edge of the wild grape’s habitat, so the trail builders took care to conserve the wild grape vines. In addition to providing a clever name for the trail, these native grapes are an important food source for wildlife. Expectations was designed to accommodate pedestrians and mountain bikes alike, with gentle curves and plenty of scenic appeal. Evans voiced his hopes that members of the community would make the trip to the Raymond Community Forest to visit the new trail.

Riding season is not over,” Evans said, as the crowd assembled for the ribbon cutting ceremony. “Fat tire bikes are welcome, mountain bikes are welcome, anything without a motor is welcome here.”

The new trail begins roughly a hundred yards from the parking lot on the Spiller Homestead Loop, and it ends on the Spiller Homestead Loop as well. As the audience of volunteers and Loon Echo Land Trust supporters clustered beneath Grape Expectation’s trail blaze - a yellow diamond with a black circle in the center - Evans spread a red ribbon over the new trailhead. Dowler cut the ribbon, and the crowd applauded.

Welcome to the coolest new pedestrian trail in the state of Maine,” Evans announced. the name of journalism, my five-year-old assistant and I inspected the entire trail. We discovered that Grape Expectations is an easy, enchanting hike that winds through the forest for slightly over a mile, crossing several bridges, climbing gentle hills, and circling a beautiful pool that was just closing over with ice. The ease of following this new trail, even in less than ideal conditions, belies the tremendous effort that must have gone into building the loop. There’s a section cut into a hillside that
is especially beautifully done, and that looks like it would be a heck of a lot of fun on a mountain bike. It would also make a wonderful, family friendly post-Thanksgiving stroll, or the perfect way to avoid the crowds on Black Friday.

If you’d like to check out the coolest new pedestrian trail in the state of Maine, head north from Route 85 on Raymond Hill Road. Turn north on Conesca Road. The trailhead for Raymond Community Forest is just past Hancock Road. Be sure to wear your blaze orange if you hike the trail in November, as hunting is allowed in Raymond Community Forest.

About Loon Echo Land Trust:

Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT) was formed in 1987 to protect land in the northern Sebago Lake region to conserve its natural resources and character for future generations. LELT protects over 6,700 acres in Raymond, Bridgton, Naples, Casco, Sebago, Denmark and Harrison through land acquisition and conservation easements. LELT is a community supported non-profit organization.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Raymond Arts Alliance provides an evening of great music among beautiful views by Jennifer Davis

Hacker’s Hill Preserve in Casco is a beautiful location with excellent views of the Lakes Region Area. This past Saturday, July 21 from 4 until 5:30 p.m., Hacker’s Hill came to life as more than 120 members of the community arrived to enjoy the beautiful music from The New England Jazz Band. 

The event was hosted by the Raymond Arts Alliance (RAA) as part of their fundraiser efforts. The event was supported by Loon Echo Land Trust, the environmental organization that manages the preserve.

 The New England Jazz Band performed music from “The Great American Songbook” with a goal of entertaining their audience and reminding those in attendance of America’s great musical heritage. The band is an 18-piece band with a polished sound. “They were fantastic, professional, creative, talented, and very fun,” said Mary-Therese Duffy, President of the RAA. “Everyone enjoyed them tremendously.”  For more information on The New England Jazz Band and to hear their music please visit their website RAA is a program of the Raymond Village Library in partnership with the Raymond Village Community Church U.C.C. The RAA hosts events such as music nights, artists’ gatherings, and workshops to provide an avenue for people to express their talents and interests. All funds raised by this event at Hacker’s Hill will go to support upcoming events in consideration and development such as “The Jazz Poetry Project” with Poet Laureate Betsy Sholl, a “Community Sing”, “Favorite Collections,” as well as a Native American flute maker and storyteller, one or two writers’ groups, a published author who resides in both NYC and Raymond. 

“Our goals also include a monthly fine artists’ group for networking, collaboration and simple enjoyment of learning of each other’s works; a mentoring program where aspiring artists/performers can meet and perhaps shadow a successful artist/performer,”  said Duffy.  “In addition, a scholarship program is available for young students who wish to pursue continued study in the fine or performing arts and humanities.”

With this year’s event being such a success, the goal of the RAA is to have this event again next year. “We hope to continue growing, both in membership and in community participation,” said Duffy. “Our true goal and commitment is for the community to feel that this is their organization and that they can participate at any point and be as creative as they would like to be with it.” If you would like more information or want to participate in the RAA, you may visit their website at