Visitors of the Orono Bog Boardwalk will notice some recent changes to the 13-year-old walkway, which provides trail-goers a scenic and leisurely stroll through the National Natural Landmark.
The Orono Bog Boardwalk has served as a natural escape for those in the greater Bangor area since its opening in 2003. The 4,200 foot long boardwalk was originally composed of 509 Hemlock sections.
“When the bog was originally built, it was built out of wood,” Erik Blomberg, the University of Maine representative on the management board for the Orono Bog Boardwalk, said. “It has functioned very well since it was built, but because it is made out of wood, in such a wet environment, it requires constants repairs and maintenance to keep it operational and safe.”
Because the Boardwalk is maintained solely by volunteers, upkeep has been a difficult task. This need for constant and costly maintenance has stemmed the launch of the the Orono Bog Boardwalk Capital Campaign for Reconstruction.
The goal of the Capital Campaign has been to replace wooden panels of the boardwalk with sections made from a composite material. The new sections are made of a powder-coated metal frame with a composite decking on top. “It’s similar to what you would put in a boat dock,” Blomberg said, “but it will dramatically increase the lifespan, and really cut down on the maintenance.” The new composite material is expected to have a lifetime of 30-40 years.
The renovation of the boardwalk is being done section by section. “We’re putting in large chunks of sections at a time,” Blomberg said. Each stage of the renovations is dependent on the funding of the project.
The total replacement cost for the boardwalk is $1.1 million. Currently, two-thirds of that goal have been met, and the Orono Bog Boardwalk Committee hopes to raise the remainder of the goal by 2017.
The costs to the renovation are completely funded by external donations, “either through individual private donations or through various grants,” Blomberg said. “Basically it’s all donated money and volunteer labor.”
Currently, over 50 volunteers help to maintain the boardwalk, guide tour groups, lead nature walks, and do countless other jobs that allow visitors to have an enjoyable experience. Since 2003, volunteers have provided over 30,000 hours of free labor.
Schools and other community groups are some of the many beneficiaries of the free guided tours. In the past five years, over 2,500 K-12 students visited the Boardwalk. Since its opening in 2003, over 300,000 visits have been made to the boardwalk.
According to Blomberg, “The reactions to the new sections are hugely positive. They’re attractive, and they’re safer. The boardwalk is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It’s wheelchair accessible, and as part of those criteria that are met had to have a certain standard, which is something that was very difficult to maintain with the old wooden panels.”
“I am very pleased that we were able to raise the needed funds to purchase the next 48 new Boardwalk sections” Jim Bird, Director of the Orono Bog Boardwalk, said. “The Boardwalk is a community project and over the years has involved hundreds of volunteers. We thank the community for supporting us.”
The Orono Bog Boardwalk is always accepting donations and support for this ongoing renovation project. Donors can visit the Boardwalk’s website or their Facebook page for information about donating.