Northern Forest Canoe Trail Launches Rural Youth Outdoor Program

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) announces the launch of a youth paddling, camping and outdoor education program – the Northern Forest Explorers. The focus of the summer program is to connect rural youth with their backyard waterways. With funding from Maine’s Horizon Foundation, NFCT conducted three week-long paddling trips for 5th-8th graders in the western Maine communities of Rangeley, Stratton, and Jackman.
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WAITSFIELD, VT – The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) announces the launch of a youth paddling, camping and outdoor education program – the Northern Forest Explorers. The focus of the summer program is to connect rural youth with their backyard waterways. With funding from Maine's Horizon Foundation, NFCT conducted three week-long paddling trips for 5th-8th graders in the western Maine communities of Rangeley, Stratton, and Jackman.

30 students were engaged in the program in 2008, representing 150 student days in the field, with each expedition following a section of the NFCT route close to the participants' community. Trip participants learned basic camping and paddling skills, Leave No Trace principles and practices, leadership and group skills. Local flora and fauna were also part of the curriculum, with guides taking advantage of the many “teachable moments” that occur along the Trail.

Thanks to grant funding, students paid only a minimal fee for participation, so the experience was accessible to all. Teaching was provided by Adventure Bound, a youth-oriented guiding company based in The Forks, Maine, with assistance from a NFCT Youth Program Intern. The Natural Resource Education Program in Greenville, Maine provided a one-day curriculum training for the guides and intern.

“Our goal is to create a program along the entire trail that offers rural youth an opportunity to get outside and become experts in the natural environment that is their backyard,” says Kate Williams, NFCT executive director. “We couldn't be more pleased with how it worked out our inaugural year, and we're very grateful to the many partners who came together to help us create a program that makes a real difference in these children's lives.”

NFCT plans to expand the Northern Forest Explorers Program to as many as 400 participants each summer over the next 2-3 years, reaching out to the many communities along the Trail's four-state route and building a model program for engaging rural youth in recreational outdoor activities.

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail links the watersheds of northern New York, Vermont, Québec, New Hampshire, and Maine, and is a unique thread tying together the Northern Forest Region. The 740-mile water trail traces historic Native American travel routes through the rivers of this region, and is a living reminder of our history, where rivers were both highways and routes of communication. Flowing with the stories of Native Americans, European settlers, and the development of mill towns and the timber industry, the Trail's rich heritage serves as a basis for widely accessible, environmentally friendly tourism in many of the small communities along the route.

To learn more about the Trail, visit www.NorthernForestCanoeTrail.org or write to P.O. Box 565 Waitsfield, Vermont 05673

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