While hiking the backcountry of Maine (or even a local nature preserve), have you ever wondered who is responsible for building and maintaining the trails we sometimes take for granted? In Maine, very often it’s the field teams of the Maine Conservation Corps (MCC) who see to it that the trails we hike on public lands remain in good condition—from building stone stairways that lead us safely up steep mountainsides, to wooden bridges that help us traverse buggy bogs, you can thank the MCC for seeing to it that there is always a path to take us where we want to go.
This year Frenchies’ Natural Products donated dozens of bottles of our natural insect repellent (Maine Woods Bug Dope) to the MCC, to be used by field teams while working on the trails. From our point of view, we are happy to make this small gesture as a way of saying “thank you” for the tremendous hard work of MCC members and for the very long days these folks put in, often in extreme weather conditions. As avid hikers, ourselves, we do not take their efforts for granted!
The Maine Conservation Corps was established by Maine's governor and legislature in 1983 and since then has recruited and placed hundreds of members—in essence, nominally paid community service workers (through the AmeriCorps program)—who have accomplished countless natural resource projects all over Maine.
MCC field teams provide community service opportunities and career training. Trail crews are typically comprised of three to six people. Chances are you’ve seen them hard at work to improve our trail systems, be it the mountains, along the beautiful coastline, or in your local community.
Specifically, MCC projects include remote backcountry hiking trails, local nature and walking paths, multi-use trails, as well as accessible pathways for wheelchair use. Some of the trail structures the MCC builds are stone staircases, timber bridges, boardwalks, bog bridging, and rock water bars, with a focus on the traditional trail skills that the MCC is famous for.
The next time you see an MCC field team out on the trail be sure to stop and thank them for their hard work and dedication. After all, if it weren’t for them, there likely wouldn’t be a trail for you to explore!
If you’d like to learn more about the MCC, including its service opportunities, visit its website here: http://www.maine.gov/dacf/parks/get_involved/conservation_corps/index.shtml