Something magical happens this time of year. As winter snow melts away, the rare beauty of a northern peat bog is revealed and, under ordinary circumstances, the Orono Bog Boardwalk would open for another season. However, this year, because of Boardwalk reconstruction, that opening will be delayed.

Boardwalk volunteers have completed Phase I of their campaign to raise funds for the replacement of the first 105 Boardwalk sections with composite decking, cladded aluminum siding, and stainless steel footings. Volunteers are currently hard at work preparing for installation of the new sections. Weather permitting, the facility is expected to open by June 15th this year. Updated information will be posted on the organization’s website,

The Boardwalk management team is now in Phase II of a campaign to raise funds for sections 106 to 250, plus two interpretative stations and three wheelchair turn-outs. With strong monetary support from the community, volunteers will be able to complete Phase II and move to Phase III, raising funds to reconstruct the remainder of the Boardwalk. Those wishing to support the Boardwalk reconstruction campaign may make checks payable to the University of Maine Foundation, indicating “Boardwalk Campaign” on the memo line. Donations should be mailed to the Foundation at Two Alumni Place, Orono ME 04469-5792. Donations may also be made online at the secure website designating “Orono Bog Boardwalk 2010 Campaign” on the support line.

Since it opened in June 2003, the Boardwalk has been visited by almost 300,000 people. They come for exercise, solitude, family outings, bird watching, educational tours, or to photograph nature. As an ADA facility, the Boardwalk is fully accessible to those using wheelchairs or pushing strollers. The Orono Bog Boardwalk has always been and will continue to be free of charge.

Every year, natural history specialists and volunteer guides lead numerous free tours and group programs at the Boardwalk. School groups from pre-school through university level, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, garden clubs, conference visitors, and others have taken advantage of this free educational opportunity. The Boardwalk also features specialized nature walks led by experts on various subjects. In past years scheduled walks have included: birds, wildflowers, insects, dragonflies, poetry, hydrology, plant adaptations, mosses, sedges, and liverworts. Those interested in booking group tours or participating in nature walks this year should monitor the Boardwalk website for updates on reconstruction, season opening, and educational programs.

Among the treasures to be observed from the Boardwalk at various times throughout the year are several species of orchids, cotton-grass, carnivorous pitcher plants and sundews, highbush blueberries, skunk cabbage, cranberries, wildlife species both small and large, and so much more. Those who have visited multiple times know that the bog changes day to day, week to week, with always something new to notice and enjoy. Seven interpretive stations are located along the Boardwalk to inform visitors about the plant and animal life to be found in this unusual wetland habitat. An interpretative sign at the kiosk at the beginning of the Boardwalk helps explain the geological processes that formed the Orono Bog.

Jointly managed by the Orono Land Trust, the City of Bangor, and the University of Maine, the Boardwalk is operated entirely by volunteers. These dedicated individuals serve as tour guides, maintenance workers, or docents who greet visitors and answer their questions. Training is provided for all volunteer positions. Maintenance, tour guide and docent training will be held before the Boardwalk opens for the season. To volunteer, please (include “Orono Bog Boardwalk” in the subject line). Students seeking to fulfill service-learning requirements are encouraged to consider becoming an Orono Bog Boardwalk volunteer.

The Orono Bog Boardwalk is a true natural gem close to home. For further information, please contact Orono Bog Boardwalk Director or 581-1697.

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