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Another world, minutes from this one

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The Orono Bog Boardwalk

ORONO/BANGOR - Just three miles from the Bangor Mall is a strange and wonderful world waiting to be explored: the Orono Bog Boardwalk, situated on the edge of the Bangor City Forest.

Visitors can explore a portion of the 616-acre bog with the help of the 4,200-foot boardwalk that was installed by volunteers nine years ago. The idea was that of retired Professor Emeritus of biology Ron Davis, who founded the bog walk.

"Bogs are such beautiful and interesting places," said Davis. "I thought, wouldn't it be nice to have a place for people to get out [into the bog] without getting their feet wet?"

The subsequent monumental planning and volunteer effort extended from the late 90s to the opening season for the Bog Walk in 2003. And it's volunteers who keep the Bog Walk in good repair, maintaining the trails and signs - itself a monumental task when you consider how many individual boards make up the boardwalk and need to be replaced. The boardwalk consists of 509 separate eight-foot long by four-foot wide sections that float on top on the peat moss. It was created in about eight months with the help of the Maine Conservation Corps, Charleston Correctional Facility personnel, and more than 150 volunteers. 

The walk is dotted with educational stations with information about the area, as well as benches, allowing visitors to take a breather or just soak in the unusual beauty that surrounds them.

"Once you're out there it's like another world - another planet," said Jim Bird, director of the Orono Bog Boardwalk. "It's just a great place."

There is no single perfect day to visit the bog. It has something unique to offer on a bright sunny day or a cool misty morning - the bog features beauty and diversity no matter what the weather. And as the seasons change, so does the dynamic in the bog.

Davis said that someone interested in the tranquil beauty of nature might want to come in the early morning, even if there is fog or rain. Birdwatchers can catch different sightings, depending on the season.

One of the great aspects of the Bog Walk is that you can enjoy it on your own or take a guided tour; you'll learn a lot and be able to ask questions.

Justin Poland has been a volunteer for the past seven years and also acts a docent - or someone willing to impart information to visitors and show them around should they need it. He is also an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maine.

"As a docent, I usually take a walk around the boardwalk myself to see the condition," said Poland. "Sometimes I briefly interact with people or judge whether or not to interact if I sense they'd like to talk."

Friends of the Orono Bog Boardwalk

The boardwalk hosted more than 200,000 visitors from around the world, and 30,000 visitors last year alone. More than 1,000 school children were able to explore the natural wonders of the Bog Walk on educational tours. In order to preserve the wonderful treasure that exists so close to us, the volunteers have started the Friends of the Orono Bog Boardwalk to help not only promote the careful use of the Bog Walk, but to assist with raising money to maintain and improve the boardwalk for future generations of visitors.

One of the major improvements the Friends of the Orono Bog Boardwalk hope to make is to replace the rough hemlock boards with composite boards that are being created by the University of Maine. The composite boards are extremely resistant to decay, and the two sections of the boardwalk that are made out of the composite have never needed to be preplaced.

With the occurrence of vandalism last year, many of the volunteers were initially disheartened by it. But in an odd way it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

"There were challenges with the vandalism last fall," said Bird during the press conference. "But the wonderful outpouring [of support from the community] brought us back on our feet."

He said that there are already 60 dues-paying members of the Friends of the Orono Bog Boardwalk, who will help ensure this treasure lasts for as long as possible.

Wendall Tremblay was formerly a lead guide for the Bog Walk and is also one of the founding members of the Orono Land Trust, but is shifting his responsibilities to focusing on fundraising.


Wendall Tremblay stops at an educational display in the Orono Bog Boardwalk and takes time to explain about the terrain, plant and wildlife that can be observed in the area.

"After the vandalism, people came out of the woodwork," said Tremblay. "We started Friends, and [the response] has been overwhelming. That was a step in knowing we're going to be able to raise the money."

One of their major fundraisers, a community yard sale, will be held on June 18. But you can also find out ways you can help by visiting the website at www.oronobogwalk.org, or calling 581-1697.

To get to the bog, take exit 187 onto Hogan Road and head towards the Mall. Where Hogan road intersects with Stillwater Avenue, take a right. Travel approximately 1.7 miles to Tripp Drive to the parking lot. The Bog Walk is about a quarter of a mile on the East Trail.

The plants

Some of the plant life differs by season. The bog is an environment that is hostile to most native plant life, so the plants that grow in the area tend to be unique. Visitors can see carnivorous plants, including pitcher plants and sundews that trap insects and other small critters and use them as impromptu fertilizer. There are beautiful flowers, including orchids that you won't see anywhere else, as well as ferns, grasses, and trees and shrubs.

See the sights!

The Schedule of Guided Tours is found at www.oronobogwalk.org. For an updated list, as well as complete descriptions of the tours, be sure to visit the website. If you do want to participate, be sure to reserve your spot in advance, as there is a limit of 12 people per group.

But if you're looking for a guided tour for a school or civic organization, you can also make arrangements for that.

One of the great things about the Bog Walk is that it complies with ADA guidelines and is wheelchair accessible.

May 14. 7 - 8:30 a.m. Short distance migrant birds of Orono Bog. Free. Leaders: Jerry Longcore, USFWS wildlife biologist, retired and Jim Bird, boardwalk director.

May 21. 7 - 9 a.m. Birds of the City Forest and the Boardwalk. Free. Leader: Paul Markson, local bird walk leader.

May 28. 7 - 8:30 a.m. Short distance migrant birds of Orono Bog. Free. Leader: Bill Glanz, associate professor of zoology, University of Maine.

June 4. 9 - 10:30 a.m. Wildflowers of the bog: Identification and ecology. Free. Leader: Ron Davis, boardwalk founder and peatland expert.

June 11. 10 a.m.- 12 noon. Poetry workshop to create a symphonic poem celebrating the Orono Bog Boardwalk. Free. Leader: Sandra Lynn Hutchison, longtime professor of English literature and creative writing and the poetry editor of the Maine literary journal Puckerbrush Review.

June 18. 9 - 10:30 a.m. Hydrology in bogs and fens - Where does the water go? Free. Led by Professor Andy Reeve of University of Maine Department of Earth Sciences.

June 25. 9 -10:30 a.m. Peat bogs for kids. Free. Led by the bog summer educational intern. This walk is for 5- to 10-year-olds.

TBA. Dragonflies of the Bog. Free. Led by Bronco Quick, dragonfly expert. A brief ecology of the Maine Odonata (dragonflies).

TBA. How some plants survive where most plants would perish. Free. Led by Professor Christa Schwintzer of University of Maine School of Biological Sciences.

TBA. What's wrong with that tree? Free. Led by Bill Livingston, School of Forest Resources, University of Maine.

TBA. The beauty is in the details: Meditating on the natural world with cameras. Free. Leader: Bill Kuykendall, New Media Program, University of Maine.

Aug. 6, 9 - 10:30 a.m. Peat bogs for kids: Carnivorous plants and boogeymen - Why are they in the bog? Free. Leader: bog intern

TBA. Fungi of the Bog. Free. Led by Seanna Annis, associate professor of mycology, School of Biology and Ecology, University of Maine.

TBA. Night sky walk. 8:30 - 11 p.m. Free. Leader TBA.

Last modified on Thursday, 08 December 2011 12:29

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