If you’ve visited Downeast Maine and asked around about where to hike, bird watch or just enjoy the area, you may have seen or at least heard of the Cobscook Trail Guide. The Guide was just one outcome of a group called the Cobscook Trails Coalition, which includes all the conservation organizations in the region. Everyone in the Coalition is deeply involved in caring for land that is used by the public. “The opportunity to gather with other practitioners with a similar focus and discuss the minute details of say, what type of staples to use when building a bog bridge is invaluable,” says Melissa Lee, Regional Steward at Maine Coast Heritage Trust.
About ten years ago, the group – which includes Federal agencies, State agencies, statewide and local land trusts, and others – embarked on an effort to provide information about publicly accessible trails and preserves to their community, as well as the many tourists who visit the Downeast area. The result was a lovely pamphlet-sized bound booklet that the local land trust, motels, bed & breakfasts and supporting businesses could sell to their customers who were looking to explore the coast.
And sell it they did! The booklets were popular and additional printings were done. Of course, as time passed the booklet needed to be updated. Quoddy Regional Land Trust (one of two trusts that later merged to form Downeast Coastal Conservancy) had overseen the creation of the guide and took much of the responsibility for the updates and re-prints, but those were costly and time consuming. The guide eventually went out of date and additional printings weren’t feasible.
Then at a regional land trust meeting, area trusts got talking about the need to bring the Trail Guide back. They shared ideas about how they might do it more cost-effectively and utilize other formats that could be updated more easily and distributed more widely. Melissa Lee agreed to take on the role of facilitator for Cobscook Trails and the new map. Lee and MCHT Regional Steward Deirdre Whitehead, along with Lubec business owner Debbie Kasunik, reached out to local establishments. It was easy for folks to understand the value of the project to the local economy; businesses and non-profits alike were happy to sponsor the guide! Nearly 30 sponsors in all contributed to the printing costs. The next step was to work with Center for Community GIS to create a user-friendly map in a handy foldable design. An initial printing of 12,000 was completed and distributed for the 2014 summer season. The new trail maps are affordable enough to be offered at no charge.
When asked what advice she would give other groups interested in creating a regional trail/preserve map for promoting conserved lands, Melissa said, “Gather all the players, make sure the information comes from them so it is accurate, and keep them informed and involved through the entire process.”