From Belgrade to Rangeley, Western Maine is showing reason to hope

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With the number of COVID-19 cases slowly dropping statewide and the rate of hospitalizations from the virus in Franklin County the lowest of any county in Maine, there are signs that this spring and summer may be filled with renewed hope in our part of the state.

This winter gave the region a boost with the reopening of Saddleback Mountain. Watching something as significant as this ski area is to the economy come back online despite the pandemic is enough to make us all feel like both the economy and our daily routines may be headed back in the direction of normal.
The commencement exercises at the University of Maine at Farmington are another rite of spring and of new beginnings even closer to home. On May 8, the university held a hybrid graduation ceremony with some students present to recieve their diplomas while others attended virtually.
On May 8, the Class of 2021, which includes approximately 376 undergraduate and graduate students saw half of those taking part in the virtual ceremony. Students and faculty who were present in-person wore masks that read “Class of 2021” on the front, while those who participated virtually could send in a photo that aired onscreen as their names were announced.

While everyone had to forego the traditional congratulatory handshake from University President Edward Serna, graduating students still had the opportunity to enjoy the traditional photo accepting the diploma while friends and family members could watch the entire event on YouTube.

The processional took place in the historic Nordica Auditorium in Merrill Hall on the UMF campus and in keeping with COVID protocol, and it symbolized the slow but steady emergence from the worst days of the pandemic.

State Parks and Public Lands are open again and what better way to enjoy the great things Maine and our region have to offer than camping near the lake at Mount Blue State Park or hiking at Rangeley Lakes State Park along with fishing, canoeing, birdwatching and more at both parks.

With 20,000 miles of snowmobile and ATV trails, Maine has more than any other state, and the 16 mile long Whistle Stop Trail runs between Farmington and Livermore Falls. If you prefer riding via leg power, the Carrabassett Valley has some terrific opportunities for mountain biking.

We must still take precautions and be vigilant, but there is more reason than ever now to be hopeful that life this summer will be closer to normal, especially outdoors in Franklin County.

Sen. Russell Black

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