Rain or Shine Fund: For Free, For Everyone, For Ever

RRCT’s Rain or Shine Fund delivers free and better access to Maine’s outdoors for everyone: “For Free, For Everyone, For Ever.” With your donations, RRCT is investing in wheelchair and mobility access at parks and preserves, reducing or eliminating the expenses of outdoor experiences for low-income populations, and keeping all RRCT programs free and welcoming to all. RRCT invites other organizations to join with RRCT to expand and collaborate. We invite your support. These initiatives require more funding to support them year-after-year, and to expand the impact.

To make an online donation to the Rain or Shine Fund, use the button on the right of this page (or scroll far below on some devices) or return to the “donate” page, or send a check noting “Rain or Shine Fund.” Thank you!

The Rain or Shine Fund Continues Momentum in 2021

Free 2021 State Park passes at all local libraries:

For the fourth year, all local libraries in the Royal River watershed have free state park passes donated by RRCT and other local land trusts. Passes are available at public libraries in Auburn, New Gloucester, Yarmouth, and  Gray. Many other organizations including the Friends of Maine State Parks donate passes to libraries in other towns across the state. Check with your local library about reserving the passes. Several libraries allow multi-day pass check-out.

Any land trust, individual, or organization can add momentum to this  initiative by buying Maine State Park passes (vehicle passes are best) and bringing them to your library of choice; fall pass purchases are good for the remainder of the year as well as the entirety of the following year. Bring this instructional PDF to the librarian with your donated pass.  

“The passes were used a total of 90 times between April and September. I know that we have families who would never be able to experience our state parks if not for this donation.” – Auburn Public Library.

“We’ve had families come in to pick up a pass just to go to Bradbury Mountain – but once they saw the full list of places the passes could get them into, they immediately started making more plans.  It has expanded the scope of where people go outside, it seems to have become a viable option for an inexpensive family outing, and when the pass is returned, it is generally accompanied with how amazing the parks in Maine are.” Gray Public Library.

The passes are in constant use.  We’ve developed wait lists due to the popularity.”   Yarmouth’s Merrill Memorial Library.  

Outdoor programs for low-income and at-risk youth:

RRCT financially supports outdoor programming, gardening, and outdoor photography through the Auburn Police Activities League (PAL), serving Auburn youth from low-income and at-risk neighborhoods, in conjunction with the Androscoggin Land Trust. We aim to continually increase the number of people who are getting outdoors and into woods, free of cost.  Thank you for your support.

Both the Royal and Androscoggin Rivers run through the city of Auburn; PAL outdoor programming bring kids on field trips to Gray, New Gloucester, Auburn and more. The two land trusts also helped secure free State Park passes for PAL for trips to parks including Bradbury, Range Pond, and beyond. In 2021, RRCT arranged for L.L. Bean donations of gear to PAL for dozens of kids. Thank you L.L. Bean!    

Wheelchair access and trail accessibility:

In 2020 the Rain or Shine Fund contributed $5,000 toward planned accessible access to the Royal River at North Yarmouth’s Baston Park. Phase I (permitting and dredging) will be followed by Phase II (accessible dock systems). RRCT’s partnership with the Town of North Yarmouth on this project is one of many successful partnerships between RRCT and  municipal parks and open space initiatives up and down the river.

In 2018 the Rain or Shine Fund helped to improve wheelchair accessibility to the playground and picnic area at Bradbury Mountain State Park. We leveraged equal matching funds from the state park system for a total of $20,000 invested into better outdoor access.

Following RRCT consulting and advocacy, Maine DOT has significantly improved traffic safety at Route 9 in Pownal, where Bradbury trails cross Route 9. The 2020 MaineDOT paving project created a “traffic-calming island” of seasonal bollards and striping in a widened spot of the roadway, improving visibility and awareness of the trail cross on this high-speed rural road. The traffic calming island assists hikers crossing the roadway, including hikers with mobility issues crossing from the primary park parking lot toward the primary accessible trail loops on the other side of Route 9.  MaineDOT absorbed the $20,000 extra cost of the wider paved section, striping, and bollards; park rangers will maintain the safety bollards seasonally.  

RRCT’s financial investments and voluntarism over multiple years in Yarmouth’s West Side Trail (Phase II) and Yarmouth’s Riverfront Woods Preserve have also helped with “universally accessible” trail construction, anticipating use by people with different mobility needs. Incremental improvements at Littlejohn Island Preserve and other RRCT trails have improved mobility options for some; trail descriptions at RRCT.org seek to provide accurate information to align mobility expectations with actual field conditions.

RRCT has supported Maine Trail Finder’s accessibility initiative. https://www.mainetrailfinder.com/accessibility with synergy between RRCT promotion and statewide promotion. Yarmouth’s Wet Side Trail (Phase II) is one of the first accessible trails piloted (show-cased) on Maine Trail Finder. https://www.mainetrailfinder.com/trails/trail/west-side-trail-ua-trail More to come in our region!

Messaging and Mission:

We install small multi-lingual “Welcome to the Trail” signs on all our of kiosks, focused on the languages used by Maine families. Especially during the pandemic and in times of societal stress, we are aware of the role of our trails to create a place for respite and healing. Recently, RRCT’s Big Falls Preserve was featured in Down East Magazine as author Abdi Nor Iftin’s Favorite Place. We are happy that we can offer our preserves and programs free and welcoming to all. We aim to have balanced and informed interpretive and media content. We’ve made significant progress incorporating interpretive content regarding Wabanaki heritage on preserve-by-preserve websites and kiosks, including Littlejohn Island Preserve, Mèmak Preserve, Runaround Pond, Intervale Preserve, and more. We always welcome input on how our messaging might be improved or refined.

Our messaging emphasizes “For Free, For Everyone, For Ever.” That’s a very challenging message to live by and deploy on a daily basis, implemented by our strategic plan’s language, organizational culture, messaging and interpretation, and constant reflection.

Free Programs and Preserves:

RRCT’s various programs and preserves are free and open to the public, with constant effort at improvement and welcoming spirit. In addition to other intiatives above:

The New Gloucester Public Library manages the keys for the free canoes and kayaks and paddling gear that L.L. Bean donated at the Fairgrounds (Royal River) at RRCT’s urging for free pubic use as part of RRCT’s Royal River Water Trail project. RRCT contributed toward the Fairgrounds boat access point in 2015. By 2021, New Gloucester Parks & Recreation has also integrated these boats into weekly summer recreational programming at the Fairgrounds, with playgrounds and other infrastructure catalyzed by RRCT’s 2015 investment.

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