Land for Maine’s Future has helped protect the Appalachian Trail, Acadia National Park and Gulf Hagas, the “Grand Canyon of Maine.”

Kim Larabee of Steep Falls and her mom, Pat, head out for a walk with their dog, Rosie, at Fuller Farm in 2018. The Land for Maine’s Future Fund helped protect the Scarborough property’s 180 acres of fields, woodlands and Nonesuch River frontage. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer, File

But also among the more than 600,000 acres conserved by the program are a variety of fairly anonymous parks, preserves, trail systems and community forests known mostly to the people who live nearby.

In the last year and a half, those green spaces have proved their worth, giving people penned in by the pandemic a place to find relief. With tens of millions of dollars set to flow into land conservation, communities throughout the state now have an opportunity to add more parks and trails where they are needed – where residents of all backgrounds can take in the outdoors as part of their day.

The recently passed state budget includes $40 million for Land for Maine’s Future, a record infusion for the 30-year-old program. Spread over the next four years, the money will be used as a state match for federal and private funds used to save land for recreation, environmental protection and working farms, forests and waterfronts.

Members of the Land for Maine’s Future board of directors will meet in the coming weeks to begin reviewing projects. The budget language says they should emphasize projects that address climate change, save deer-wintering areas and promote community-focused recreation.

Every acre saved by the program, regardless of the reason, is important – it’s hard to find fault with any of the projects funded throughout its history.

But the focus on community-level recreation is the area that should get attention in every town and city across the state. There are few places like Gulf Hagas or Acadia, but every community has places worth setting aside for public use – and every Mainer should have a place nearby where they can enjoy the outdoors.

Just two years ago, funds from Land for Maine’s Future were used to preserve Howard Hill Historical Park, with trail heads in Augusta and Hallowell. Many residents in both communities are able to walk to the 164-acre site, which overlooks the state Capitol.

Communities across Maine have within their borders areas similar to Howard Hill. They needn’t be quite as large or with such a dramatic backdrop – parks, ballfields, forests and trail systems of all kinds can be preserved and developed into places perfect for spending a day.

Now is the time to identify those places in your area and make something of them. The Land for Maine’s Future funding comes just after the passing of the Great American Outdoors Act, which will send tens of millions of dollars a year to Maine for outdoor recreation and land preservation. Together, the money will fund conservation projects here.

A lot of different projects will be seeking the funding, and nearly all will make a good case for why they deserve it – Maine has so many sites that should be set aside for the work and play of future generations.

But we’re glad to see a focus on community recreation. While there are no shortage of places to be outdoors in Maine, not everyone has one nearby. Low-income areas particularly are short on green space.

Regardless of where they live, people need to get outside. They need public space, with trees and fresh air.

Getting outdoors, whether it happens at a state park or down the street, is healthy and restorative. It improves people’s lives and their communities – and it shouldn’t be limited by one’s income or address.


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