Maine’s wild, uninhabited islands are a treasure. And the organization that makes hundreds of islands accessible to paddlers, sailors and motorboaters – the Maine Island Trail Association (MITA) – is a gem.

Three hundred MITA supporters from the length of the Maine coast gathered at East Coast Yacht Sales in Yarmouth on May 18 to celebrate America’s first recreational water trail.

“This is the boating season kickoff party,” said MITA Program Director Brian Marcaurelle. “And we’re raising a little money to take care of the islands, most of which is done by volunteers.”

The 375-mile “trail” is a map – or an app – of island locations, from the New Hampshire border to Canada, where public and private landowners have agreed to partner with MITA, allowing its members access in exchange for caretaking.

“MITA is for anybody who wants access to the chain of islands,” said kayaker Shauna Sanchez of Arundel. “A lot of people want to share their land.”

Using the trail guide is like having “secret spots” for boating trips, said host committee member Katie Eichleay of West Bath.

“When I was growing up, so many places were private,” said renowned Maine artist Eric Hopkins of North Haven. Now, he said, he pays his membership and gets a map of hundreds more places open to him.

Scott Woodruff of Camden said that he supports any group that gets people on the water, but appreciates that MITA is also “socially aware” – with “a very clean and environmentally-friendly approach to boating.”

“I volunteer with MITA, picking up the beaches,” said Dagny St. John of Woolwich. “It’s amazing what you can find: parts of buoys, pieces of plastic, lobstermen’s gloves, a shoe here and there.”

It’s because of hundreds of volunteers like St. John that islands on the trail are typically cleaner than those that aren’t.

“We don’t own anything. We’re a virtual organization. And we have the most wonderful landowners,” said trustee Mark Fasold, a former board president. “It’s all about mutual respect and caring for the islands.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

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