PARIS — “The River Park is a hidden gem that is a great place for an early morning or evening paddle.”

This is the assessment of Fergus Lea, chair of the Androscoggin Watershed Council, one of 14 collaborators partnering to improve the quality of life for members of Oxford county towns.

The mission of Maine West is to promote active communities; expand broadband access; facilitate resiliency through outdoor education at sites like Roberts Farm and the Bryant Pond 4-H Learning Center; and provide college coursework, entrepreneurship and workforce training for high school students.

Kayakers participated in an evening group paddle on the Little Androscoggin River in Paris Sept. 23. Courtesy Cindy Kimball

Last Thursday ARWC and the Oxford County Wellness Collaborative (OCWC) organized a group excursion for the Oxford Hills Older Adults Outing Group on the Little Androscoggin River from the Paris River Park on Paris Hill Road. Seven kayakers launched from the river park for an early evening paddle to Stony Brook and back. The group included first-time as well as experienced kayakers.

This bald eagle picture is one of 300 images captured by Healthy Oxford Hills volunteer Cindy Kimball during a Sept. 21 community kayak outing on the Little Androscoggin River in South Paris. Courtesy Cindy Kimball

The outing was led Carl Costanzi, a Norway resident who is involved in many community support programs. Along the way he educated paddlers about birding from the river.

He noted that numerous types of warblers, Baltimore Orioles, redwing blackbirds, water fowl, raptors and other bird species can be quietly and closely observed in their summer habitat. That evening kayakers spotted turtles, a flock of geese, a perched bald eagle and other wildlife.


Earlier this summer the adult outing group ventured to Two Bridges Preserve in Otisfield, Witt Swamp and Shepherds Farm in Norway, Cornwall  Nature Preserve in Paris, Pondicherry Park in Bridgton and Hawk Mountain in Waterford.

Outdoor outings in Oxford Hills were initiated in 2023 after Maine West and the River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition successfully launched the similar Rumford-based program, Wellness Walks, last year.

“The outings make it easier to get outside and active by providing a guide, Cindy Kimball, who is familiar with local trails and who spends a lot of time outside,” Healthy Oxford Hills Program Manager Brendan Schauffler told the Advertiser Democrat in an email statement.

“We also provide anything else that might be needed to help get someone outside: water, bug spray, sun screen, trekking poles that can be borrowed. For outings that require special equipment, like our paddle, we provide everything needed so participants can just show up and have fun. In addition to getting some fresh air and exercise, the outings provide time for people to connect with one another.”

Painted turtles along the Little Androscoggin River bask before the sun sets Sept. 21. Courtesy Cindy Kimball

Kimball is the primary coordinator for Oxford Hills outings. Last week’s paddle was the final scheduled outing for the season but Schauffler said there is interest in organizing more. While participation is free, he asks that people contact him at Healthy Oxford Hills to make sure they can plan what supplies to provide.

He said that Maine West also supports outing programs for Maine School Administrative Districts 17 and 44, Regional School Units 10 and 56, as well as Oxford county residents who are in substance use disorder recovery, or are affected by it; and presents Second Nature Adventure Challenge, a twice-yearly fundraising event where participants log thousands of hours outside and raise thousands of dollars for community-serving organizations across the region.

Learn more about Maine West, its community initiatives and partner organizations on its website, Schauffler can be reached at Healthy Oxford Hills about Maine West programs at 207-744-6191 or

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.