RRCT Justice, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion: For Free, For Everyone, For Ever

“For Free, For Everyone, For Ever.” RRCT is always working to deliver free and better access to Maine’s outdoors for everyone by investing in mobility access at parks and preserves, by reducing or eliminating the expense of outdoor experiences and by keeping all RRCT programs free and welcoming to all. We invite your support to help expand our impact. 

RRCT Continues Momentum for Accessibility in 2022

Free 2022 State Park passes at all local libraries:

For the fifth year, all local libraries in the Royal River watershed have free state park passes donated by RRCT, Freeport Conservation Trust, and other local land trusts. Passes are available at public libraries in Auburn, New Gloucester, Yarmouth, Gray, and Freeport. 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.  

Messaging and Mission:

RRCT installs 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. 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 and land acknowledgements 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.

We have specific defined partnerships with Yarmouth Community Alliance for Racial Equity, and we seek other partnerships and input.

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, our conservation plan’s language, organizational culture, messaging and interpretation, and constant reflection. RRCT’s 2022 Conservation Plan (Imperative #4) emphasizes a focus on land conservation acreage “For All Towns,” especially noting the historic gap in conservation success in Royal River watershed towns of Gray, Durham, and Auburn, and the resulting inequitable access to the outdoors for residents of those towns. RRCT’s work is heavily informed by recent work by Amherst College & Harvard University on social justice in land conservation.

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 initiatives 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.

RRCT’s strategic plan and conservation plan both focus on geographic diversity of RRCT’s land acquisition program, with metrics intended to bring land conservation and public access to less affluent towns and neighborhoods in the watershed. We draft our deeds and our management plans intentionally, aiming to resist intentional or unintentional pressures of exclusivity.

Wheelchair access and trail accessibility:

RRCT’s significant financial investments and voluntarism over multiple years in Yarmouth’s West Side Trail (multiple phases, including 2022) and Yarmouth’s Riverfront Woods Preserve (multiple years, including 2021) have 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.

In 2020 RRCT 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 RRCT invested $10,000 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.