Students gather for an outdoor Teens to Trails event at Reid State Park. Courtesy of Alicia Heyburn

BRUNSWICK — In an effort to make the Maine wilderness accessible to all students and outing clubs, Teens to Trails has partnered with a Portland-based software company to bring a Maine outdoor guide to cellphones.

Members of Teens to Trails have been looking at ways to foster outdoor experiences for high schoolers throughout Maine.

Chimani, the app’s developer, previously created a National Park guide, but their new app is the first of its kind in that it provides information for outdoor recreation on a state-wide level specific to Maine. Hiking trails, beaches, lighthouses and park hours can be located on the site, reducing the challenges of planning out a trip.

“The endgame is to make people have this sense of belonging in the outdoors,” said Alicia Heyburn, executive director of Teens to Trails. “The app is on your phone and your phone is in your pocket all the time, which means that you have access to the outdoors all the time.”

Proceeds received from paid subscriptions to the Maine guide will be donated to the outing club at Brunswick High School, as well as Bowdoin College’s Upward Bound Program.

Teens to Trails has encouraged its outing club affiliates to use the app by offering free access for high schoolers. For Bryce Stevens, a sophomore at Maine Academy of Outdoor Sciences, the app could become a key resource.

“It’s amazing that they’ve come up with something like that. … We can simply plug some sort of district of Maine into the app and just say, ‘Alright, let’s go here and check this mountain out,’” Stevens said.

Teens to Trail has registered 22 outing clubs across the state as they look to fulfill their mission of building a “threefold connection” for high school kids: student to student connection, adult to student connection, and connection between the student and the “planet they live on,” according to Heyburn.

“A lot of kids at the school are hands-on,” Stevens said.  “They want to be outside actively doing things, so outing club definitely helps with getting to know a lot of other people. … A lot of good friendships and bonding comes from that.”

Heyburn hopes that Teens to Trails will allow students to have an outlet for play, which will pay dividends for their mental states while providing a place for learning about Maine’s wilderness.

“There’s this unfortunate assumption that students are just interested in competitive sports or preparing for college and work,” she said. “Things that are based on play and fun are hard to come by. But it’s through play that students learn about themselves and are able to grow, so that’s why we support play.”

Stevens, who serves as head adviser to the outing club at his school, has taken notice of the trips’ effect on his fellow students: “I think that when we’re able to have trips, the mood of the school is lifted. For those of us who go on the trips it’s definitely a nice breather. Even if it’s a struggle to get out or get to the top of the mountain, once we’re up there it chills everyone out.”

Covid regulations have restricted group gatherings and presented new challenges to outing clubs who are no longer able to convene at school.

“Group activities and transportation particularly are really challenging for a high school outing club,” Heyburn said. “But every kid can get this app and figure out where to go with friends or with a small group or with family all on their own.”

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