WELD – The weather was perfect, the ice rink was nice and smooth, and the snow on the trails was just ideal on Saturday, as more than 600 people enjoyed the Family Fun Day at Mount Blue State Park.
With a day full of outdoor activities to enjoy, numerous families headed to the state park for the most successful “Take It Outside” event so far this year.
“It was a fabulous day at the park,” said Commissioner Patrick McGowan of the Maine Department of Conservation, who attended with his own family. “Everyone had a wonderful time enjoying the best of what Maine has to offer in outdoor winter fun. This event certainly achieved what we at MDOC want every Maine resident to know – that we have some of the most outstanding places in the U.S. for all folks to experience the outdoors.”
More than 2.2 million people visit Maine’s state parks and historic sites each year. Park Manager Bruce Farnham said he had expected a good crowd on Saturday, but nonetheless was surprised by the large turnout of people. “They were pretty much from all over, all parts of southern Maine,” he said.
Saturday’s event was the second “Take It Outside” event to be held this year by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, under the MDOC. A very successful ice-fishing day, attended by more than 90 children and parents, was held in January at Lake St. George State Park.
“Take It Outside” is an initiative led by Gov. John E. Baldacci and supported by the Bureau of Parks and Lands to encourage Maine’s children and families to reconnect with nature.
Families on Saturday were able to enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing; sledding on Center Hill; ice skating on the park’s rink; and horse-drawn sleigh rides provided by David Fish of Weld.
Park Manager Andy Hutchinson of Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park led two groups of about 30 people each on nature hikes through the Mount Blue park, looking for tracks and other signs of local wildlife. Loaner sports equipment was available for children and parents to try out, and more than 700 hot dogs and hamburgers were served for lunch.
Farnham said he was particularly impressed with the kids and parents who tried out snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at the various recreation stations and then went out on the trails to use their new skills. “People had the opportunity to try out some new things and find out they liked it,” he said.
“There were crowds at all of the recreation stations,” organizer Gary Best, BPL interpretive specialist, said later. “The sledding on Center Hill was very popular,” with park staff continually shuttling people up the hill on a snowmobile. “I don’t think that stopped all day.”
Farnham and Best both said they were struck by the generosity and support from all the sponsors and the community. A special thanks is extended to the following volunteers who made the day work: Pam Crawford of Naples; Lisa Drapeau, Weld; Purse Drapeau, Weld; Bill Espeaignnette, Weld; Bob and Cristie Paine, Weld; Neil and Joanne Stinneford, Weld ; Brian White, Jay; Erna White, Jay; and the youngest volunteer, Reilly, 8.
Best said he also heard numerous comments and questions from people who wanted to return and who weren’t aware that the park is open every day to enjoy similar outdoor fun. “They don’t need this kind of event to enjoy these activities every day,” he said.
Ursus Media Group was on hand to video the event for an upcoming edition of “The Maine Show,” shown on Time Warner Cable. The fun day will be shown on television sometime later this month or early March, a spokesman said Monday.
The Mount Blue event was sponsored by: Hannaford Supermarket, Farmington; Farmington Irving; Farmington Walmart; Franklin Savings Bank; MDOC; Maine Winter Sports Center; Northern Lights Hearth and Sports; Poland Springs; Weld General Store; Wicked Joe Coffee; and Wilton Food City.
The third “Take It Outside” event of the year will be a Family Fun Day at 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 21, at Aroostook State Park in Presque Isle. Call Aroostook State Park for more information at: (207) 768-8341
Mount Blue State Park is open from 9 a.m. to sunset, though lighting at the ice skating rink is available for night-time skating. Entrance fee is $1.50 for those ages 12-64. For more information, call the park at: (207) 585-2261.
For more information about “Take It Outside,” go to: www.maine.gov/doc/parks/index.html
Please note that trail conditions for Aroostook are now posted at: www.maine.gov/doc/parks/parksinfo/winterreports/aroostookwintertrailconditions.html
Registration for this summer’s First Time Camper program will begin on April 1. Visit http://take-it-outside.com/ for more details.
For more information about “The Maine Show,” go to: www.themaineshow.com/