In the spirit of summer exploration and following on last week’s column about places to access public waterfront, I wanted to trace a few points back inland to some of the trails that can take you to these sweet shoreline spots. Through an array of land trusts, towns, state agencies, and other conservation organizations, there is a network of trails in Midcoast Maine that provide ample opportunity to see a variety of habitats along the water.

If you’re looking for a way to find these seemingly secret strolls, it isn’t always simple. Some of that is because there are different groups managing each area and it is hard to know where to look. But, this summer, three local land trusts have made it a little easier. Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust and Harpswell Heritage Land Trust have joined together with Mid Coast Hospital to put together the Southern Midcoast Summer Trail Challenge.

Funding to make the collaboration possible was provided by the Mid Coast Public Health Council through a partnership with Maine CDC. The idea behind the event is to get people outside and introduce them to beautiful places they might not already know. It goes from Memorial Day until Labor Day, giving you a whole summer to get on the trails.

I first heard about it at the beginning of June on National Trails Day when my girls and I participated in the Harpswell Hiking Challenge, rapidly ticking off three coastal trails in one morning. We’ve kept on ticking off trails, expanding our geographic scope from places as urban as the Brunswick-Topsham Riverwalk and Town Landing Trails, to as remote as the Segerstrom Preserve at Squam Creek on Westport Island. Most recently, we visited a vernal pool at the newly opened Chase Reserve off Bunganuc Road. This was an amazing early summer treat complete with newly emerged frogs and mating dragonflies.

While there are the obvious ocean-front trails like the Cliff Trail in Harpswell, I was surprised to find how many of the other trails include some kind of water access. It could be a vernal pool, pond, creek, or river, but it makes one appreciate how many waterways we have in Midcoast Maine. From up at the Cathance River Preserve in Topsham all the way down to the Curtis Farm Preserve in Harpswell, water flows from each of these towns out to the ocean. Looking at the map provides a clear visual of the interconnectivity of each of these places.

It’s easy to join the Summer Trail Challenge. To see all the trails, go to www.midcoasttrailchallenge.org. From here, you can also download a card to keep track of the trails you hike.

Or, you can pick one up at one of the participating land trusts or at the recreation departments in Brunswick, Topsham, Harpswell or Bath, or at the farmers market at Crystal Spring Farm. Return your card to the KELT office by mail or email by Sept. 4 to be entered for a prize.
There are 21 trails in all and for every trail you complete, you get a raffle ticket to win an assortment of prizes. If, at the end of the summer you’ve completed them all, you will be entered to win the grand prize. Local businesses like Center Street Cycles, Cool as a Moose, LL Bean and Pineland Farms have all donated prizes.

It’s only July, so there is plenty of time to discover these places and to see the amazing array of waterfront natural resources we have in Midcoast Maine. You can follow the challenge in the BTLT blog. And, if you’d like to write about your experiences or share pictures, you can share them on the event’s Facebook page.