Camden Outdoors

By Karen Brace | May 26, 2016

The reasons we live in (and visit) Camden are many. We love the seashore, the mountains that border the town, the region’s cultural flavor, and the outstanding educational system. We love the scenic beauty and our tight sense of community.

Of those six assets listed, three are related to the community and three have to do with the outdoors. These assets don’t just apply to some: no matter what your stage of life, there’s something among them that will resonate for you. In this town, where it's great to raise a family, to retire, and to do business, the facets of community and nature add value and generate our sense of place.

A group of local people is working to make the outdoors as accessible as possible to everyone, visitors and residents alike. It’s a group called “Camden Outdoors,” consisting of members who represent organizations such as Coastal Mountains Land Trust, the Parks and Recreation Committee, the local chapter of the NE Mountain Bike Association, the Pathways Committee, the Snow Bowl/Ragged Mountain Recreation Area, outdoor educators, trip leaders, and staff. They’re starting with a project to create a recreation map of the area, showing all the best places to swim, hike, bike, launch your boat, walk your dog, have a picnic, even bird watch. They’re including all seasons, spanning the town and including recreational assets beyond Camden’s borders. This map will be interactive — online, so you can even see where you are when you’re on a trail, and look up information in real time. The Camden Outdoors group has met monthly since the fall and has compiled a complete inventory of activities and locations.

The paper “Parks Map” will be available too, showing all of Camden’s 17 parks and several scenic overlooks, with photos and ways to enjoy each one. If you didn’t know Camden has 17 parks, pick up a map at the Town Office and explore those you haven’t yet visited.

Like culture, education and the town’s strong sense of community, recreation and natural resources bring people here to live and work, in doing so generate financial value for our area in addition to health and enjoyment. The amenities of our area attract young families and people of walks of life as permanent residents, keeping our town and our economy vital on a year-round basis.

Recreation in Camden takes many forms: there’s something for everyone. You may or may not be aware of the network mountain bike trails cut by volunteers in the area of Rollins Road, off Hosmer Pond Road near the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area. Each Monday evening, the Midcoast chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association (McNEMBA) assembles “Youth Explorers” at the Snow Bowl. Children arrive with their bikes, their helmets, their water bottles and their parents. Some parents stay and ride. Simultaneously, a new group called the Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine (many of them parents of the young bikers) takes off up the multi-use Kuhler trail at the Snow Bowl. Meanwhile, the ball field is full with lacrosse or softball players, and the boat ramp and swimming area is active too. This summer, rental kayaks and stand-up paddleboards will be available there on selected dates, including the busy Monday evening times. Bike rentals will be available as well. And, during day times, the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area at the Snow Bowl is the site for the YMCA’s summer recreation camp program for youth.

In addition to the bike trails on Rollins Road, several years ago the McNEMBA volunteers created a trail for downhill mountain biking at the Snow Bowl. I often see young people and adult riders slowly pedaling up or pushing their bikes to get to the top of the trail and ride down. (To me, this is true dedication.)

Other hotspots of activity like Megunticook Lake, the river, the boat ramps, the many trailheads and of course the harbor are humming with activity too. Our recreation map will be full with information on these — where and how to get outdoors here year-round. We’re fortunate that there are so many options to include!

If you’ve been to Barrett’s Cove lately, you may have seen the Megunticook Rowing organization’s fleet of crew shells. It’s a beautiful sport to watch. The programs are becoming more and more active, with teams from Megunticook Rowing participating in regattas even out-of-state.

For those who don’t row, bike or hike, there’s our wonderful Mt. Battie access road at the Camden Hills State Park offering a way to go up and enjoy the outdoor panorama. For senior residents who prefer to walk short distances, the paths through Harbor Park are the ideal place to stroll, sit on the benches, feel the sun and breathe in the salt air.

For non-hikers who’d like to go up and see the bay from the top of the Snow Bowl, you’ll be able to do so this summer at selected times via the triple chairlift. Now, mid-day on Saturday afternoons starting July 2 as well as during various scheduled events, you’ll be able to take a summertime lift ride. Three scenic overlooks, ideal for weddings and events, are also perfect for sitting for a picnic lunch with friends. You can ride the chairlift down or walk down one of the user-friendly hiking paths. So, even if you have not skied at the Snow Bowl, you’ll be able to say you’ve been to the top of the only ski area in the U.S. with views of the Atlantic Ocean. Beware, however — saying so may bring more friends to come and visit you!

In the harbor, we see the traditional sailing vessels, rowboats and motorboats, and we will also often see kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. More and more variety means more healthy ways to enjoy what the area has to offer.

A goal of mine for later in the summer is to launch a program to get Camden residents outside participating in a recreational activity they haven’t tried before. The Camden Outdoors group which is creating the recreational map will take on some leadership in this program. If you’re interested in helping with this effort, please be in touch by emailing me at karen@camdenmaine.gov.

Another group of hard-working citizens is raising money for the Community Center at the Snow Bowl for the enjoyment of the outdoors, and as a gathering spot for general uses by the community. Originally, the Snow Bowl was built by volunteers, and that spirit carries forward to today. The Community Center will enhance the town’s recreational offerings and make Camden even more attractive as a place to live and work.

The economic multiplier effect of these activities supports jobs, businesses and the vibrancy of our community. Thank you to the volunteers who work tirelessly on outdoor-related projects, making healthy activities and the appreciation of nature accessible to all.

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