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Trails Tuesday: Runners Go ‘Back to the Woods’

November 19, 2018

The first season of the Downeast Conservation Trail Race Series attracted new visitors to natural areas from Orland to Baring


BARING, Maine—A new partnership is promoting an alternative way to experience the great outdoors. Local runners can’t get enough.

Between the first race in August and the final race on November 11, over 350 participants ran in the first annual Downeast Conservation Trail Race Series hosted by six conservation groups. Eleven runners completed at least five of the six races in the series, qualifying for the series prizes by running a total of over 35 miles of trail overall.

For some runners, running on trails in the woods, wetlands, and mountains of Downeast Maine presented a challenge. Before the series Danielle Reardon of Eddington had never run on a trail before. After running all six races, she’s sold on trail running: “I don’t think I’ll go back to pavement. I had no idea how hard it was, but I loved the challenge. Plus, it was scenic, not boring.”

Despite the challenge, the trail races attracted all ages and experience levels. Teddy Dickson-Smith, age 11, heard about the race from his cross-country coach, and enjoyed running in five of the six races because “You see things on the trails in the woods. It’s more fun and more challenging.” Teddy’s brother and father also ran in the series, showing that trail running can be a family adventure. Mother Charlotte Clews also ran three races with her 10-year-old daughter, saying the series was a “great family event.”

Besides promoting outdoor exercise and family fun, the trail race series had another benefit: encouraging locals to discover trails and conserved areas in their backyard. “It’s fun to have other places to go,” said Ann Cannizzaro of Pembroke, “it’s been really inspiring. I didn’t know all the trails were out there.” The trail races were spread across Downeast Maine, located at community supported nature and wildlife preserves in Orland, Surry, Sullivan, Machias, Baring, and Grand Lake Stream.

For Jonathan Aretakis, also of Pembroke, the unique trail races presented “an incredibly beautiful and varied terrain—lovingly cared for by so many stewards and committed users.” Jonathan was the first male winner of the series, stating “it is nice to be a part of this ‘back to the woods’ movement in running.”

Between the six conservation groups, over 100 volunteers helped to plan the races, clear the trails of debris, mark the courses, register runners, and clean up. The groups are seeking more volunteers to help with what is expected to be an even larger turn-out next season. Anyone can become involved by contacting their local hosting organization: Blue Hill Heritage Trust, Downeast Coastal Conservancy, Downeast Lakes Land Trust, Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust, Frenchman Bay Conservancy, and Friends of Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge. Race dates for the Downeast Conservation Trail Race Series’ second season will be released in early 2019. To learn more about the races in this series visit www.downeastconservationraces.org.