June 16 – 22, 2023Vol. 25, No. 1

2023: Welcome to Recreationland

Great Pond, as seen from the gazebo at the Belgrade Lakes Golf Club.

by Esther J. Perne

Recreationland: totally Maine, totally Belgrades, totally the right place at the right time.

As simple as a few sunny moments sitting at a picnic table in a peaceful park or as strenuous as an epic day-long climb up a challenging mountain trail, recreation lends itself to all levels of exertion.

As costly as state-of-the-art bass fishing equipment, a boat, and a powerful pick-up to haul it or as thrifty as a pair of cut-offs that work well for a refreshing splash in the water, recreation fits into all manner and means of investment.

As squeezed-in as a short walk around the parking lot for fresh air to escape a mad-crazy, workaholic work environment or as expansive as the long, leisurely weeks “off” associated with Maine’s legendary moniker, “Vacationland,” recreation suits the schedule.

As limiting as tending a potted plant on a balcony or porch or as limitless as the sky itself (skydiving anyone?) recreation, especially in the summer, presents boundless and endless opportunities.

Formally, recreation means activity done for enjoyment when one is not working; its origins lie in late Middle English in the sense of mental or spiritual consolation. Informally, in this beautiful, bountiful part of the world it means whatever’s waiting on the other side of the door. Open it, and there are lakes and ponds and streams and rivers that belong to everyone, trails and tracks and paths and sidewalks that beckon to everyone, ballfields and playgrounds and sports facilities and community parks that embrace everyone.

It would be impossible and perhaps foolish to list every form and facet of outdoor outlet, activity, sport, event, presentation, celebration and relaxation, not to mention the indoor options, that await under the umbrella of recreation in Maine because it appears to be just about everything.

In Maine recreation is big business. Industry sources indicate that Maine is fifth in the nation for the value outdoor recreation adds to the state’s economy, while guestimates are that outdoor recreation contributes over $3 billion to Maine’s economy and accounts for close to 5% of all jobs in the State. Boating and fishing alone contribute over $400,000.

But recreation is also — in Maine talk — small potatoes, as small as the pauses that people take in pursuit of an interest or a passion or distraction…or “just looking.”

Where there is recreation there will be that other great summer pastime — spectating or watching. From loud crowds filling bleachers at arenas and stadiums cheering on horse or tractor or music competitions to elbow-bumping family groups attending fairs and festivals to the small-town Americana of parents pulling carts or coolers loaded with snacks, extra clothing, deck chairs and umbrellas for an afternoon at a ball park or sports court there’s a lot of watching going on.

Recreation, thankfully, is testimony to nobody left behind. Too old, too young, too timid, too tired?…forget all that. There is a lesson to be learned from the Travis Mills Foundation program of “Rest and Relaxation for Recalibrated Veterans” on Long Pond, where recreation is the antidote to whatever has damaged or could be dragging a military hero’s life downward. Or, consider Pine Tree Camp for children and adults with developmental and physical disabilities on North Pond where the best days in a camper’s year and even forever belong to the week when accessible recreation opens up trails and treehouses, waterfront activities, archery, arts and crafts and friendships.

No gear? No problem. From state gear-share companies to the “too good to throw out” shed at a local dump, gear can be had, and day camps, coaches’ private collections and rec centers often have available a shareable stash as well. Skowhegan Rec, for example, has a basecamp that loans out all season camping gear, trail maps, field guides and an array of summer sports gear that ranges from canoes to bike helmets, paddles, paddle boards, life jackets, day bags and more.

Except for a few guarded secrets about where the biggest fish or the best blueberries are, there is no lack of willingness to share recreation enjoyment and expertise in the region. Opportunities for children to be introduced to sports through schools, clubs, camps and recreation programs are plentiful. Although the many rec programs in the area are usually reasonably priced, interest in outdoor recreation also starts with family outings.

For individuals a great source to find things recreational and sociable is to study local posters and bulletin boards (which in itself is a form of recreation) and voila: here’s one, an invitation from the Cumston Cruisers in Monmouth — a merry band of Saturday morning runners of all varieties who try to stick together but it’s ok to break off because often “we land at the bakery afterwards!”

Finally, don’t forget that canine pet. Just say “walk,” “ride in the boat,” or “let’s go out” and enjoy being in Maine, in the Belgrades, in the right place at the right time.

©2023 by Summertime in the Belgrades. All rights reserved.