by Kevin McKeon, Master Maine Naturalist
If we go down this path, where do we end up?
Does this trail go to the Rail Trail?
I’d like to walk around here, but there’s no signs!
These questions will become rare at the McKeon Environmental Reserve in Springvale. Mousam Way Land Trust has installed trail sign posts at all trail intersections, and trees have been painted with bright red circles along the Reserve’s 2 ½ miles of trails. And at the six entrances — 4 along the Rail Trail and two along Blanchard Road — there are trail map signs showing the Reserve’s trails. Many folks take a photo of the maps to have with them along their nature forays.
Many of the Trust’s reserves have experienced increased visitation and trail traffic. Through many encounters with trail users, the Trust has identified the need for trail signs, maps, and informational placards. Some of these encounters were of kids being led by parents and teachers along the Trust’s first Self-Guided Nature Trail along the western shore of Deering Pond; The recent COVID issues, with the student spacing and increased ventilation requirements, caused many folks to seek out the relative freedom of the outdoors. Being outside the confines of the typical classroom enabled social distancing to mitigate the effects of COVID related issues. Similar trails received increased use during initial COVID-related restrictions by small classes and by folks simply escaping the confines and stresses of social distancing and isolation. And many folks have learned the healthful effects of “forest bathing” for both body and soul.
Several such self-guided informational trails are being planned on various Trust reserves. As part of a recent Maine Master Naturalist Program (MMNP) “Capstone” project, informational placards were installed at various points of interest by Kevin McKeon, a 2022 MMNP graduate. This is all part of the Trust’s ongoing project to support Self-Guided Nature Trail use by local schools, home schoolers, civic organizations, and the general public.
Future MMNP functions include naturalist-led walks for organizations like Boy/Girl Scouts, York County Senior College’s Lifelong Learning program, local schools, and various local and regional hiking groups.
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