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Bog Boardwalk has Become a Premier Outdoor Destination in the Bangor Area

Contact: Nick Houtman, Dept. of Public Affairs, 207-581-3777, houtman@maine.edu

ORONO–The Orono Bog Boardwalk, a 4,200-foot long, four-foot wide ribbon of hemlock boards that starts in the Bangor City Forest, had about 21,000 person-visits from opening day on May 1st to closing day on November 28th, according to founder, University of Maine emeritus professor and outgoing director Ron Davis of Orono. That is an increase of about 5,000 person-visits over last year, when the boardwalk opened six weeks later in the spring.

This year, 79 percent of the visitors came from within 25 miles of the boardwalk, with residents of Bangor, Orono, Old Town, Hampden, Brewer, and Veazie being best represented, in that order. Eleven percent came from other parts of Maine, including its farthest corners. Nine percent came from outside Maine, including 44 other states, and the remaining one percent from 18 foreign countries. Many visiting groups of family and friends were mixtures of persons from nearby and away, indicating that the boardwalk is a favorite place to take visiting family and friends on an outing.

In its first two years of operation, the boardwalk has become a premier destination in the Bangor/Orono area for persons wishing to experience the beauty and fascinating plants and animals of a Maine bog. The boardwalk begins at the forested wetland edge in the Bangor City Forest, and after 800 feet crosses the town line into the University of Maine owned part of the bog in Orono. Along the way, it passes through changing vegetation and environments on its way to the open, peat moss carpeted center of the mile square Orono Bog.

Boardwalk visitors encounter a series of well designed, full color signs with illustrations of common species of bog plants and animals, and explanations to go along with them. Many visitors return to the boardwalk, again and again, to observe the colorful bog and to absorb its tranquil beauty over the changing seasons. The boardwalk is a wheelchair-friendly facility. Benches for rest and contemplation are provided at least every 200 feet.

The facility is operated jointly by the University of Maine, City of Bangor, and Orono Land Trust. There is no charge for use of the boardwalk, but a container is provided for those who wish to leave donations for its upkeep and educational programs.

The 21,000 person-visits in 2004 included over 100 institutional groups. Board walk volunteers guided many of them. Among the groups were classes from schools at all levels, indicating that the bog boardwalk has become an important educational facility in the Bangor area.

These field trips included sixteen University of Maine classes in biology, forestry, geology and wildlife as well as exchange students and groups from scientific conferences. Classes from community colleges, high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, and pre-school day care centers came to learn about bogs and other wetlands. A trip to the bog boardwalk provided a real world experience to reinforce classroom studies. In addition to educational institutions, Boy, Girl, Cub, and Brownie Scout troops, Job Corps, summer camps, and nature and garden clubs visited the boardwalk.

Outings to the boardwalk in 2004 from medical and rehabilitation facilities, institutions for mentally and physically disabled, correctional and behavioral disability centers, senior housing and clubs, physical fitness and other clubs indicate that the boardwalk is a therapeutic and revitalizing experience for many people.

Davis also reports that in 2004 two additional structures were added to the boardwalk facilities. These include a small log cabin for storage of maintenance tools and supplies, education and registration materials, first aid supplies, and an emergency cell phone. A screened porch on the cabin provides shelter for the docents, educational attendants who volunteer to staff the boardwalk during periods of heavy visitor use. Most of the materials for the cabin were donated to the boardwalk by Northeastern Log Homes.

The other new structure is a log outhouse. Most of the materials for the dual entry (one side is wheelchair friendly) outhouse were donated by Northern Log Homes and American Concrete. Both structures were built entirely by volunteers.

Davis, now 73, will retire as boardwalk director at the end of this year. In 2000, he came up with the idea of building a boardwalk to share his many years of experience in bogs and wetlands with children and adults from the Bangor area and beyond. He and a host of volunteers designed the structure, raised funds, obtained permits, and built the facility in 2002 and early 2003.

He continued his volunteer work as director during the rest of 2003 and all of 2004. He plans to continue as an active boardwalk volunteer. The new director is UMaine Professor John Daigle, who directs and teaches in the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Program. Daigle is a “great choice for new director,” says Davis.

The boardwalk is now closed for the season. The planned 2005 opening date is May 1st. A program of nature walks will be held again in 2005. More information about the boardwalk and its programs can be obtained at its website www.oronobogwalk.org or from the director at 581-2850.

Volunteers for docent and maintenance assignments are welcome. Donations may be sent to the Orono Bog Boardwalk Endowment, University of Maine Foundation, 2 Alumni Place, Orono, ME 04469.

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