New state initiatives will assist Mainers discover and safeguard entry to out of doors recreation

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Amanda Beal is Commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

Maine is synonymous with outdoor recreation. But there was a time when access to nature was taken for granted – as the world accelerated and development increased, cities grew. Our rural communities shrank, and the remaining population faced greater challenges. And all around us, fields, paths, and boardwalks became increasingly inaccessible.

Unfortunately, it reads like the same old story. But this is Maine, and with passionate leadership at the local, state and federal levels, access to nature is front and center through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), expanding our ability to protect land and being a major source of matching funds for our state’s Land for Maine’s Future program.

No matter where you live, there’s a good chance the LWCF has shaped your outdoor recreation experience in Maine—870 funded outdoor recreation projects are secured for everyone to enjoy forever. Since 1964, royalties have been paid by companies drilling for oil and gas on the outer continental shelf. These funds protect national parks, forests and wildlife sanctuaries and provide grants for state and local parks and outdoor recreation projects. LWCF is one of our best tools to protect access to public lands for recreation while investing in natural resources and supporting businesses.

Something great happened recently in Maine related to LWCF. Decades and stacks of paper records that inventoried the program’s impact on the state were converted into digital documents. These efforts have resulted in a dynamic new tool, the Outdoor Recreation Investments Map, which can be found on the Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL) website.

A site visit and the full scope of the LWCF will quickly grasp you. Additionally, this unique resource is a useful planning tool for identifying future field trips to estimated destinations across the state.

Maine’s newly created LWCF Outdoor Recreation Investments Map is a product of teamwork. The map was created in collaboration with the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, the Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation, the Maine Recreation and Parks Association, the Maine Department of Transportation, the Appalachian Mountain Club, The Nature Conservancy and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of created parks and lands. To avoid future piles of paper LWCF inventories, thanks to the recently approved state budget, a new staff unit supports map updates, maintenance and improvements, and other important and ongoing tasks.

Screw Augur Falls at Grafton Notch State Park, Lubec’s Town Landing, the ATV Trails through the Androscoggin Riverlands, Big Spencer Mountain and hundreds of other places of value in Maine have received LWCF grants. So you have closer baseball stadiums, hiking trails and recreation facilities, from football fields at Emery Park in York to the Dionne Park playground in Madawaska, from sidewalks at Kenduskeag Stream in Bangor to a fully accessible path in Acton. They are all easy to find on the map.

Over the past six decades, the LWCF has held a key position in ensuring that outdoor leisure resources exist for future generations. Please take the time to explore all that the LWCF has accomplished by visiting the BPL website. And remember to look for ways to add your voice to the call for more funding for the LWCF. Be part of the process of protecting outdoor recreation in Maine and beyond.