photos and article by Ramona du Houx
Eleven seventh graders from Mount View Middle School in Thorndike, Maine visited the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) to begin their quest to visit all Maine State Parks in 2018 as part of the Maine State Park Passport Program in partnership with The Game Loft in Belfast.
"The I Know ME program focuses on learning about the state and learning about oneself," said The Game Loft co-Director Ray Estabrook. "We believe that if you know who you are and you know where you are from, you can find where you are going. The I Know ME program has received generous funding from the Emmanuel and Pauline Lerner Foundation."
The students plan to visit all Maine State Parks as part of the new "I Know ME" program, which augments the original program started in 2010.
The Park Passport Program challenges participants to visit all 48 Maine State parks and Historic Sites, have a passport book stamped and earn prizes. It has been one of the most successful promotions that the DACF's Bureau of Parks and Lands has initiated. Since the program's inception families, individuals, schools and tourists have contributed to over 200,000 park passports in circulation.
"Maine residents have an amazing resource in our state park system," said The Game Loft co-Director Patricia Estabrook. "As people who have visited all 48 state parks we believe that these treasures teach us about our heritage and enrich our lives. Everyone should consider participating in the state park passport program."
The booklet is a great resource to learn about Maine's state parks and historic sites. Using the passport is fun and easy. Visit any Maine state park or historic site from May 15 through September. Find the brown passport station and unlock the padlock using the secret code (The combination is the park's establishment date, you can find it on the passport page). Stamp your passport.
Passport holders receive an award for every 8 stamps they collect. The more stamps collected, the better the award. The passport program was expanded to include 8 geocache's. There is one geocache at a state park in each of the 8 tourism regions. Passports can be obtained for $1 at all Maine State Parks.
Governor John Baldacci was on hand in May of 2010 to inaugurate the program envisioned by Eliza Townsend his Commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation (DOC). Baldacci was the first one to get his passport stamped at Range Parks State Park in Poland.
“It’s a wonderful idea – good for you, good for the economy and good for the state,” said Governor Baldacci at Range Park in 2010. “I often tell people, we don’t appreciate enough the hidden jewels we have in our state. Right in our backyards, we have the Disneyland of natural resources.”
It’s those backyard parks that have built found memories across the state that last a lifetime.
“My grandparents, parents and brothers and sisters would go to, what used to be the Dorothia Dix Park, outside of Bangor,” said the Governor at the park. “We’d have a picnic and then play baseball. There was a brick wall that we pretended was the center field wall at Fenway. If we hit a ball over the wall we were homerun kings. Today, Maine has hit a homerun with this program.”
Passport Program details are available at: http://www.maine.gov/dacf/parks/discover_history_explore_nature/activities/passport_program.shtml
The Game Loft is an award winning 4-H out of school time program that for the past 20 years has been serving the educational, emotional, and social needs of youth in Waldo County. The Game Loft is a free program open to all youth, 50 weeks a year, between the ages of 6-18 who are in school or are home-schooled.