Along the Natchez Trace

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Just Thinking....

A few days ago I mentioned that this place (Aroostook NWR) depends on volunteers - especially to keep the Visitor Center open.  Judy, who is a dedicated volunteer with Fish & Wildlife, asked why they don't provide full hook-ups for RVs so that more people would be interested in volunteering here.

I feel like I've short-changed the refuge in my writings about this so far.....  sort of left out some vital info....

From the beginning of this refuge in 1998 until just this year Aroostook NWR has been in demolition mode.  While there are at least 10 miles of hiking trails located in various parcels of the refuge, the land where the headquarters and visitor center are located has pretty much been "works in progress" ....  lots of testing for contaminants, taking down 12' high chain link fencing, demolishing and getting rid of unsafe buildings.

Belted Kingfisher

Quite simply, there hasn't been a whole lot that a visitor could see on their own.  An auto tour is available... but those mostly been scheduled in advance.  And there hasn't been a lot to do that a lot of volunteers would be interested in doing, or even able to do.

This visitor center has been getting around 1,000 visitors a year...  and that includes school groups and military reunions as well as the locals and travelers who just drop in to see what we're all about.  There are another couple of thousand who use the trails without ever coming inside.

Beaver in Dilemma Pond

2003 was the first year Bill & I came here.  We came because Bill is an equipment operator and the refuge was in "clean-up" mode big time.  The visitor center wasn't open most of the time.  No big deal...  there weren't any visitors.

We parked beside the maintenance shop... 
We've parked in this same spot ever since.  

Not because there aren't other sites available, but because we have a fantastic view from our windows.  We can use an extension cord as we only need 30 amp service.  We use the shower that's located inside the shop, so we have to move to dump only every couple of weeks or so.  These have all been our choices....  
There are full hook-up sites available, in fact, there was a FEMA trailer available for biotechs etc. in the early years.

The first thing Kirk asked me, way back in 2003, was "What can we do to make things better for you here?".  I said that a washer and dryer sure would be nice.  By the end of the day he had bought both... by the end of the next day they were hooked up and ready for use.

In 2010 another couple came here to volunteer.  They hadn't mentioned that they had a BIG rig and would need 50 amp service. Again, within the day, Kirk had rewired part of the electrical system and they were hooked up.

Moose in the Marsh

Now, in 2012, the demolition stage is almost complete.  The time to invite the public in has arrived.  It will take some time to make people aware that there are things to do here.  The Friends group has events once a month.  There is also the annual Fishing Derby, there is National Refuge Day, as well as other open house type events.  Just today, Steve, the asst mgr, gave a presentation about wildlife to kids at the Limestone Library.

There are more trails now...  next year I wouldn't doubt but what one volunteer could work their whole hours just doing trail maintenance.

Field of Queen Anne's Lace

The days of needing an extra equipment operator are probably past.  There is a new Ass't Manager who is located right here at this office 4 days a week.  His background is biology and he has the hope of developing more public oriented activities.

There are plans to develop better RV sites....   the "brown shirts" ask a lot of questions about what RVers want...  what we need....  what makes life easier...  It seems every week different aspects of RV sites  are discussed...  

The place where we are parked is scheduled to be demolished one of these days.  Right now we still have electric and phone service, but that will change when the building goes.

Black-eye Susans and Queen Anne's Lace

It would be interesting to see just how many people would show up if we advertised that there would be a birding tour at 6am on Saturday morning.  

Or a star-gazing tour next week during the Perseid meteorite shower....

Or an evening power-point program about the invasive plants that are found here....

Hopefully, in time...

It will happen.

Trail maintenance and keeping the visitor center open weekends are both "jobs" that the regular staff just doesn't have time to do.

The Refuge has turned a corner...  

I think both visitors and volunteers are all welcome.
And those that come will be happy here.

I know that the staff here will do everything they can to make that happen.

Yeah... I guess this is another butt shot...

That's All for Today!


  1. Hi Sharon, we plan to be working in Acadia next summer...if all works out I shall definitely be by sometime to visit your wonderful refuge.

  2. Thanks for clarifying all of that. Now you've got me thinking of putting Maine on my radar for next summer! :)

  3. Is your header photo, moose on the loose from a game camera?

  4. Does this mean it's your last year at Aroostook? It would be ten years of volunteering there next year and that is pretty impressive. Where will you be going next?

  5. That was some interesting insight into what goes on behind the scenes at a NWR and why volunteers are so important. When I look at some of the crowded campsites in parks I'm thinking maybe volunteers are pretty smart!!

  6. Interesting blog to go with the interesting lifestyle. I do love our NWR's.

  7. I've actually done Perseid viewing in Aroostook. By two a.m. the mosquitoes have really quieted down.

  8. Wow. You should feel hugely accomplished that it has gone from refuse to refuge with your help.