This post contributed by Betsy Cook, Maine State Director of The Trust for Public Land
We’re all spending more time outside these days. In fact, Maine State Parks had their busiest year on record in 2020. It’s a way to safely see friends and family and soak up the health benefits of nature. At The Trust for Public Land, we believe parks are a community superpower.
Parks connect people to nature and to one another, to our neighborhoods, and to the world. The people at Allagash are also outspoken proponents of the many gorgeous public parks our home state has to offer. Which is why I’m making a guest appearance on the Allagash blog to share some of my favorite spots to get outside in Maine.
The spot: Bayside Trail and Eastern Prom Trail, Portland
Best park for: A picnic after work
You don’t have to go far to enjoy the great outdoors in Portland. The Bayside Trail and Eastern Prom Trail is the perfect spot for a jog, bike ride, or a socially distanced picnic with friends. Some of the city’s best food trucks can be found along its length, along with Portland’s iconic Eastern Promenade, and some of the City’s cutest pocket parks. The Eastern Prom Trail is also part of the first trail system The Trust for Public Land created in Maine—so it’s near and dear to my heart.
The spot: Mt. Blue State Park and Tumbledown Mountain
Best park for: Your kid’s first camping trip
With over 15,000 acres of forests, sweeping alpine vistas, more than 100 campsites, and a swimming beach on Webb Lake, there’s no shortage of fun in Mt. Blue State Park and Tumbledown Public Lands. This area offers both family-friendly hikes and challenging rock scrambles to an alpine pond for more adventurous hikers. For winter fun, check out the 15 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails and outdoor ice rink at Mt. Blue State Park. In 2002, we helped permanently protect this special place for Mainers and visitors to enjoy. It’s the ideal spot to spark a lifelong love of the outdoors in your kids.
“Mt. Blue” credit: Jerry and Marcy Monkman, courtesy of The Trust for Public Land
The spot: Baxter State Park
Best park for: when you’re ready for a challenge
While Maine’s iconic park includes plenty of kid-friendly options, you can also go big and summit Mt. Katahdin, Maine’s tallest peak and the end (or beginning) of the Appalachian Trail. Since 1921, when Maine Governor Percival Baxter identified Katahdin Lake as a critical missing piece of the park that bears his name, this stretch of old growth forests and dramatic vistas had eluded all conservation efforts. In December 2006, nearly 37 years after Baxter’s death, The Trust for Public Land raised the funds to protect the lake and the surrounding landscape.
The spot: Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge
Best park for: contemplating history
With books like Silent Spring and The Edge of the Sea, Rachel Carson helped sparked the environmental movement and for two decades we’ve been growing the park named in her honor. It’s a spectacular place to explore tide pools, bird watch, and feel the ocean mist on your face —just 30 minutes from Portland! Southern coastal Maine contains a greater diversity of terrestrial vertebrates, threatened and endangered species, and woody plants than any other part of the state, so protected places like this play a vital conservation role.
“Bald Mountain” credit: Chris Bennett, courtesy of The Trust for Public Land
The spot: Bald Mountain Pond
Best park for: a wilderness adventure
There are actually 17 places named Bald Mountain Pond in Maine, but we think this is the best one. Cold, clear Bald Mountain Pond welcomes paddlers and anglers from across the country. Hikers on the Appalachian Trail skirt the shore, threading through century-old forests, taking in views of Mount Katahdin, and bedding down for a night in the sturdy hikers’ shelter just a few steps from the pond’s banks. When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity emerged to protect this extraordinary place, The Trust for Public Land rallied more than a dozen partners to permanently preserve this spectacular stretch of the Appalachian Trail.
The spot: Knight’s Pond
Best park for: a walk with your new quarantine puppy
A popular spot for residents of Cumberland and North Yarmouth for outdoor recreation year-round, Knight’s Pond really shines in winter when people flock there for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and skating. We almost lost this special place to development when the previous owners put the land up for sale, but The Trust for Public Land and our partners were able to raise the funds to permanently protect it in 2015.
“Bethel Community Forest” credit: Jerry and Marcy Monkman, courtesy of The Trust for Public Land
The spot: Bethel Community Forest
Best park for: the outdoor sports lover
Whether you’re in the mood for mountain biking, cross country skiing, or a quiet stroll through the woods, Bethel Community Forest has it all. It offers a wilderness experience within walking distance of Bethel, making it the ideal spot to stop by after you hit the trails at Sunday River. If not for The Trust for Public Land and our local partners, this land likely would have been developed, given the area’s proximity to the ski resort. But instead of condos, a community-owned forest benefits the local four-season tourism economy, protects the natural environment, and unites the community around their woods and trails.
The global pandemic has made creating parks and protecting public lands for people more urgent than ever. We have our work cut out for us in 2021, and we need your help. Please donate to The Trust for Public Land today. We are able to save $8 worth of land for every $1 you donate, so you can be sure that every dollar you donate will make a difference for parks and people!
Header photo credit: Jerry and Marcy Monkman, courtesy of The Trust for Public Land