Orono Land Trust: The Corridor Project
This is the final piece of an eight-part series of articles about lands stewarded by the Orono Land Trust. Fifteen years ago, folks from the Bangor and Orono Land Trusts gathered to discuss the possibility of developing a landscape scale conservation initiative in the Bangor area. What evolved was the Penjajawoc Marsh – Caribou Bog Corridor Project, an 18,000-acre focus area extending from Essex Street in Bangor along the eastern shore of Pushaw Lake to the inlet of Pushaw Lake in Hudson. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s “Beginning with Habitat” program was the impetus for selecting this area as it contained numerous ecological features of state significance. In addition, we were interested in an area large enough to accommodate the movement of large mammals and an area within which plants and animals could adapt in response to the potential effects of climate change.
The two most significant ecological features in the Corridor are Penjajawoc Marsh, arguably the most important freshwater marsh for wading birds and waterfowl in Maine, and the Caribou Bog, the third most significant domed peatland in the state. Distributed throughout the area are streams, ponds, lakes, swamps, vernal pools, beaver flowages, as well as hardwood and softwood forests, some under active management, others left to develop into old growth. Throughout the area, residence homes and small developments exist, but about 8,500 acres are conserved in one form or another.
Many partners are involved in this endeavor, ranging from several municipalities including Bangor, Orono, Old Town, Alton, and Hudson, to the University of Maine, MDIFW, the two land trusts, and Hirundo Wildlife Refuge. Initial funding for the project came from the Land for Maine’s Future program. Additional support was provided by the partners as well as grants from the Maine Community Foundation, the Maine Outdoor Heritage Program, The Maine Natural Resources Conservation Program, Maine Audubon, The Nature Conservancy, and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.
In the southern and central portions of the Corridor, the old Veazie Railroad bed is a thread connecting numerous protected parcels between Bangor to Old Town. The RR bed provides access to more than 50 miles of connecting trail systems, but care should be taken, as some of the RR bed is privately owned and not open to the public. The Bangor Land Trust has conserved numerous parcels in the southern portion of the Corridor, while the city of Bangor manages Essex Woods and the Roland Perry Bangor City Forest. The University of Maine maintains the Orono Bog, Smith Farm, and the large Perch Pond Woodlot north of Poplar Street in Old Town. The Town of Orono provides access to the Caribou Bog Conservation Area and manages land around its landfill. The Caribou Bog Wildlife Management Area, administered by MDIFW, encompasses more than 2,000 acres north of the Taylor Road in Orono and east of Kirkland Road in Old Town. The OLT maintains several properties abutting the RR bed, while HWR, with their 2,100 acres, anchors the northern part of the Corridor along Rte. 43 and abutting Pushaw Stream.
All of these areas are open to the public for recreation, although one should check web sites of the two land trusts or the municipalities involved for any restrictions. In most cases, hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and hunting are permitted. The Penobscot Valley Ski Club grooms the trails in Orono at the CBCA where as many as 60 skiers can be found on a nice day. Local biking groups have worked with landowners to provide trails ranging from beginner level skills to expert. The Bangor Forest, CBCA, and the Perch Pond Woodlot are excellent biking areas and canoeing is highlighted at HWR.
Environmental education is an important objective of several of the partners. The Bangor Land Trust conducts nature walks and indoor programs throughout the year. More than 30,000 visitors a year flock to the one-mile long Orono Bog Boardwalk with its excellent dioramic displays of a Maine peatland. Hirundo offers environmental programs, has several self-guided interpretive trails, and, this year, will open a new “Trail of the Senses” for the physically and visually handicapped.
The Corridor is truly of state significance; where other Maine towns have a state park nearby, we have our Corridor! Whether it is for recreation, education, or just some peace and quiet, come out and enjoy this wonderful resource. And, please consider supporting the great organizations dedicated to providing these quality experiences.
Trail maps can be downloaded at: www.oronolandtrust.org. OLT is an All-Volunteer Accredited organization. Membership dues help OLT maintain trails. Please become a member online.