Encouraging the public’s movement for movement in Maine

As enthusiasm for the outdoors has seen an outburst in popularity this past year, Georges River Land Trust (GRLT) in Maine is making sure it capitalizes on the movement for movement.

Operating over a roughly 144,000-acre service area of the St. George River watershed, GRLT is aimed at conserving land and enhancing public access across the 14 towns within the watershed. Its most recent project, set to be complete within the year, builds on the Thomaston Town Forest trail system for hikers, bikers and visitors alike.

“This project is making the forest more accessible for those that want to spend more than a few hours outside,” says Sam Vail, the GRLT’s Director of Development. “We already had a bike trail, but seeing how much the community was using it we decided to focus on enhancing their experience.”

Specifically, the expanded trail is building access in a small strip of the forest called Jack Baker Woods that is popular for hiking and hunting.

GRLT’s area of operations is constantly growing, as the organization frequently purchases parcels of land outright for conservation and recreation. Otherwise, the organization engages with existing landowners to set up conservation easements, which benefit the owner while ensuring the land never gets developed.

And as far as how GRLT chooses its next area to conserve, well, it’s largely based on what’s available.

“Conservation requires cooperation. We’ve been very strategic in how we acquire land and work with landowners. We’re always working with towns, looking at the existing resources we have and involving as many partners as possible,” says Vail.

As part of our commitment to good corporate citizenship and improving sustainability in the communities near our operations and projects, Enbridge donated $2,500 to GRLT in 2020. The funding supports the Thomaston Town Forest trail project to help enhance the original bike trail system in Jack Baker Woods.

Now and into the future, Vail says that GRLT is continuing to keep its focus on answering the heightened interest in outdoor recreation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic—one of few consistent silver linings shared across land trusts and environmental organizations in North America. For the people of Maine, the beautiful backyard has become a place of solace for many.

“We want to be there for people to safely enjoy the outdoors,” says Vail. “Post-pandemic, we want to maintain ourselves as a benefit to the community by protecting the beauty of Maine and keeping it accessible for all.”