Friday, April 26, 2024

Legislature approves trails bond as proposal heads to November ballot

The Maine Legislature has approved the Maine Trails Bond that will provide $30 million over four years to invest in the design, development, and maintenance of trails statewide. In a strong show of bipartisan support, the Maine House voted, 133-6, and the Maine Senate voted, 29-3, far surpassing the two-thirds majority votes required to pass bond measures. The measure was signed by Gov. Janet Mills and will appear on the November ballot for approval by Maine voters.

Loon Echo Land Trust Executive Director 
Matt Markot walks with State Rep. Jessica
Fay at Pondicherry Park in Bridgton last fall.
Fay's bill to invest $30 million for state 
trails was approved by the Maine Legislature,
signed by the governor and will be on the
ballot statewide for voters in November.
This will be the first time that Maine voters will have an opportunity to vote for a trails bond. At a time when outdoor recreation activities, including on trails, represent a growing segment of Maine’s economy, the Maine Trails Bond has garnered broad, bipartisan support across the state.

“This is terrific news,” said Pete Didisheim, the Senior Director of Advocacy at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “We’re thrilled that Maine voters will have their first-ever opportunity to support a bond that would invest in new and improved trails statewide. These investments in trails will deliver benefits for generations to come.”

The remarkably broad coalition of 520 Trails Bond supporters includes 75 cities and towns, 168 businesses, 41 ATV and snowmobile clubs, 43 statewide organizations, and 193 local organizations. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce, L.L. Bean, Maine Municipal Association, Maine Snowmobile Association, ATV Maine, Bicycle Coalition of Maine, New England Mountain Bike Association, Maine Tourism Association, and Maine Outdoor Brands are but a few of the entities supporting the bond.

The Loon Echo Land Trust was one of the organizations that signed on to support the bond.

"Trails are integral to our way of life here in Maine. Our communities have long enjoyed access to this critical infrastructure, but we can't take it for granted," said Matt Markot, LELT Executive Director. "LELT manages over 35 miles of trails across the Lake Region and a Maine Trails Bond will enable us to better invest in these important community resources."

Enock Glidden, an Outdoor Accessibility Consultant and a disabled athlete, shared his support of the Trails Bond.

“As a wheelchair user and lifelong resident of Maine, I grew up in a time when accessibility was not at the forefront of most people’s minds,” Glidden said. “That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about the Maine Trails Bond. If passed by Maine voters, this bond will help provide new accessible opportunities for people like me to be surrounded by nature and reap the benefits of what Maine’s outdoors has to offer.”

LD 1156 was introduced by State Representative Jessica Fay (D-Raymond), with cosponsor support from three other Democrats, five Republicans, and one Independent.

“Now more than ever, trails are critical to our quality of life and the health of Maine people. I am confident that Maine voters will embrace the Maine Trails Bond this fall, which will help fund trail projects across the state that enrich our lives, communities, and economy,” Fay said.

Senator Rick Bennett (R-Oxford and Northern Cumberland County) was a co-sponsor of the bill.

“Local economies across Maine will benefit enormously from this bond,” Bennett said. “I support the amazing number of organizations across the state who have called on the Legislature to place this measure on the November ballot," Bennett shared. "This is too good an opportunity to pass up.”

The Maine Trails Bond, or LD 1156, will provide $30 million in competitive grants over four years to organizations and towns for motorized, non-motorized, and multi-use trail projects. Funds will be managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands for the design, maintenance, and construction of trails statewide.

Al Swett, President of the Maine Snowmobiling Association, shared his support for the bond.

“Maine’s trails and trail clubs bring people together and help them access some of Maine’s most spectacular places,” he said. “For too long, we’ve been underinvesting in our trails. But that could soon change, if Maine voters endorse the Maine Trails Bond this November – which I think and hope they will.” <

Friday, April 19, 2024

Raymond Community Garden prepares to kick off growing season

By Kendra Raymond

With spring well underway, many Mainers are developing a case of spring fever. This usually includes migrating outside, the smell of food grilling, people walking in neighborhoods, and sounds of motorcycles hitting the roads. As the risk of the last frost approaches, traditionally around Memorial Day weekend, Mainers look forward to planting flowers and vegetables in home gardens.

A portion of the Raymond Community Garden during the
2023 season is shown. The sunflowers are repeat
residents of the garden and re-seed themselves every year.
While some property owners are lucky enough to have perfect soil and light requirements, others face growing challenges in their yard. Thankfully, Raymond residents are fortunate to have access to the Raymond Community Garden right at their fingertips.

The Raymond Community Garden was started about 10 years ago with the help of federal stimulus funds. It has grown from a tiny plot beside the Raymond Village Library to a sizeable area where community members can gather. The garden provides green space for residents of all ages to enjoy, learn, and work. Best of all, a significant portion of the crops grown are donated directly to the Raymond Food Pantry.

Garden Coordinator Linda Pankewicz says that the RCG employs a type of sharecropper rule where one row of each gardener’s plot provides vegetables for the food pantry. Many gardeners grow garlic, pole beans, onions, and tomatoes to donate. However, creative crops are welcomed and encouraged.

The garden is part of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Maine Hunger Project. The Cooperative Extension donates seedlings and Raymond resident Nate Rand donates his time to grow tomatoes and pole beans to contribute to the food pantry.

The Cooperative Extension says that the community garden contains both rental plots and a large common plot. The produce grown in the common plot is donated to the food pantry and provides quality, healthy food for families that need it.

For a nominal fee of $15, residents can purchase a plot to use for the season. Plots are about 12- to 15-feet square. It is common for residents to purchase a double plot. Garden coordinator Leigh Walker manages the plot purchases and oversees activity at the garden.

“Some people have a shady yard, like me, so the garden provides a great place to grow,” Pankewicz said. “Other residents may face challenges on their property such as soil quality concerns while others may have a heavily wooded property, extremely wet or dry soil. Let’s not forget the social aspect, a visit to the garden can put you in touch with neighbors and even some new friends.”

Pankewicz said that the garden area is maintained by volunteers with the Cooperative Extension, but additional helpers are always welcome. She explained that the garden area consists of two sections, the Children’s Garden with the pergola nearer the library and the back section of the garden, located on property owned by the Plummer family and used through their generosity.

The community effort doesn’t stop there. A local summer camp is a member of the garden, providing opportunities for kids to learn about gardening. The camp donates their yields to the food pantry, further continuing the enriching experience as campers learn about the importance of community involvement through volunteering.

The Raymond Community Garden is committed to being friendly to the environment requiring that all plots must be organic and chemical-free, said Pankewicz. Water conservation is also encouraged by using mulch and provided rain barrels.

Sunflowers are abundant in the garden and are well-established through re-seeding, especially in the Children’s Garden. “The original sunflower seeds were planted by the children attending a special program on the Native Americans who lived in the area.

“The sunflowers growing now are all from the original planting, but garden members have sometimes added their own varieties,” said Pankewicz.

The Raymond Community Garden is located next to the Raymond Village Library at 3 Meadow Road in Raymond.

To learn more about purchasing a plot or volunteering at the Raymond Community Garden, contact Garden Coordinator Leigh Walker through the library at 207-655-4283, or feel free to drop in. An information board is located at the entrance to the garden and provides pertinent information as well.

Community Garden updates are available on the Raymond Village Library website at: and on the Raymond Village Library Facebook page. <

Friday, April 12, 2024

It’s time to think spring with plants

By Kendra Raymond

With the possibility that spring has sprung, it is time to turn our focus outside and think about early season garden preparations, bedding plants, and what might be new for 2024 in the gardening world. Despite the recent late-season nor’easter, the flora and fauna know that April has arrived. That means the return of robins, spring peepers chirping, sprouting flower bulbs, and flowering trees.

A friendly garden gnome overlooks some
daffodils emerging through the snow at
a Raymond home.
I am reminded of Charles Dickens quote in “Great Expectations”: “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Maine winters are long, but when spring arrives, it is well-worth the wait. We are usually eager to jump into spring feet first and enjoy the wonders of springtime in the northeast.

Early season garden preparation

The warmer temperatures and longer days entice us to get outside and perhaps get our hands dirty in the garden. There are some basic maintenance steps that should be addressed to ensure good garden health through the future growing season.

If temperatures are above 20 degrees, it is safe to remove dead plant material, unless you are interested in preserving a habitat for pollinators. In this case, it is a delicate balance. While some beneficial insects can live in the dead plant material, fungi and bacteria can also lurk there. Consider leaving a few hollow stems for insects and removing the remaining decomposing plant matter, just to be safe. Simply place it in a separate area of the yard and you will likely see a clientele of bird couples choosing nesting materials from your debris.

This is also a great time to prune fruit trees or shrubs. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension publishes the Maine Home Garden News, a monthly newsletter containing pertinent seasonal information written by educators, Extension specialists, and Master Gardeners.

The April 2024 Maine Home Garden news says that it is time to maintain tools, eradicate brown tail moths, and possibly transplant shrubs. Once perennials begin to emerge in early May, those too can be divided and transplanted.

Start seedlings indoors

For ambitious home gardeners, it can be rewarding to start seedlings indoors. The Extension bulletin, “Starting Seeds at Home #2751” suggests that peppers, eggplant, tomato, broccoli, cabbage, inpatiens, larkspur, and marigolds can be started at this time. Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners also suggests starting beets, carrots, cilantro, dill, lettuce, peas, turnip, spinach, and onions indoors.

As a horticulturist, I would suggest a lot of planning and preparation before embarking on a seed starting project. This includes ample space, seed starting medium and containers, and growing lights. This hobby may not be economically feasible for everyone. However, for those interested in a rewarding challenge, indoor seed starting may be a great fit.

Early color can spruce things up

While we wait for the first bit of color in the garden, it can be exciting to incorporate some cold hardy pansies in the early spring garden. Pansies can be sown directly into the ground or placed in plant pots on a step or deck. The ideal temperature for pansies is roughly 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit, but they can survive in temps in the 20s and will live all summer.

Kale plants are also cold weather tolerant and can add some texture to the landscape.

2024 Gardening trends

Looking toward the summer growing season, it is interesting to recognize that just like fashion and food, there are trends in gardening. What’s all the rage this year? As always, container gardening is timeless. Containers are portable and work well for gardeners with limited space or seniors who find bending and digging difficult.

Gardening for wildlife is gaining popularity. Think of providing resources for butterflies, birds, bees, or small mammals. This can be a great learning experience for kids and requires little effort.

Here’s my favorite gardening trend for 2024: edimentals – ornamental plants that are edible. With the farm to table movement in full swing, why not join the craze and try it for yourself? This technique blurs the line between the flower garden and the vegetable garden, creating a pretty-yet-functional planting space.

Here is a link to the April 2024 Home Gardening News: <