Penquis Nature Trail
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Describe your group’s project in a few sentences:
Penquis GoGreen is a school group endeavoring to fully integrate sustainability practices and awareness into every facet of the school culture. We have been operating for 1.5 years, during which time we've revived a small raised bed for school produce and a composting program, run two programs in the community to help focus attention on climate, set up three indoor grow stations including one hydroponics, raised money for 4 solar electric panels, built 2 solar hot air units, and established a weekly school wide GoGreen Challenge, to name a few activities. With the initiative towards a community playground, GoGreen has created the Penquis Nature Trail effort to bring to life a community nature trail, raised beds and landscaping for indigenous edibles, and pushing for renewable energy to power security lights and cameras and showcase a switch to renewables that will accompany Emera's building the largest solar farm in the state in our local Kiwanis fields. We are relying heavily on community expertise, from foraging experts to loggers, slate from a local old quarry, a wood sculptor, the UM Extension Services, and the Royal River Land Trust for trail building experience, to name a few. We are very excited, as people become more and more sensitized to the value of connecting with nature and from where our food comes.
(How) Does your proposed project have environmental, social and/or economic impacts?:
Milo is an underprivileged community in the heart of the gorgeous woods of Maine. We have a tradition founded on hunting, fishing, living off the land, forestry and outdoor sports. We aspire to reconnect our community to what a beautiful piece of the world we have and in doing so inspire a stronger relationship with the earth and where our food comes from. In this era of climate change, it is critical that we embrace what we have and how we can protect it. It is well documented that time spent in the outdoors and gardening enriches adults and children alike, helps learning, and is the foundation from which to help create a sustainable world.
Describe your group’s vision for the community and how this project ‘fits in’:
We think this will be a beautiful fit for the community. Everyone will have access to the path and students in particular will be able to take advantage of the habitats surrounding their school. We can incorporate our path and nature's classroom area for a wide variety of curricula. Community members will be encouraged to interact with the natural spaces as well. This will offer a unique, safe place for people to socialize.
Please describe how your group makes decisions and set(s) priorities for the proposed project:
We are holding bi-weekly meetings for this project and will communicate regularly in-between meetings. We currently have a Facebook group which we also use to coordinate our efforts. Many of the decisions are made by guidelines the school has, but within that, our creativity is rising to the occasion!
What lived experiences do current decision-makers offer that will help with the project?:
We all bring something to the table. I--Laurie Sproul-- have been a science teacher so I am able to bring my knowledge of the Earth and of our students' needs to this effort. I am also a wood sculptress so have a good sense about aesthetics of the project. Another member is a Boy Scouts leader, another is a Forester-- we all have a great knowledge of nature and the skills needed to execute this effort. The rest of our members-- being from such a natural area-- are all equally capable and intouch with what members of the community will be looking for in common outdoor space.
Describe the group's strategies to engage neighbors/the broader community in this project?:
Members of the broader community have already expressed interest and donated substantially to our cause. As the Community Playground effort has strengthened, a core group of people have shown interest in the Nature trail. We have reached out via the playground FB page and meetings to solicit involvement in the trail planning. I have also reached out to people I know to be experienced in particular skills that will be needed for successful completion of the project.
Describe how the group makes efforts to understand and address barriers to participation in this project.:
We have been communicating to the community what we are seeking to do and how we are seeking to execute it. The interest has been immediate and abundant. We are all hoping to pitch together and do as much as we can with the resources we do have. We know it will only be successful with a degree of realism towards its role in the community, and we can only achieve that understanding by involving as many different voices as possible. It is easy to offer something to help people and be off the mark. My goal is to not waste time, to have the greatest impact possible, and to do that I need maximum breadth of participation.
Will this project build upon previous or parallel efforts (either initiated by your group or by others) or is this a new organizing strategy for the community?:
We are building from the GoGreen energy, the Community Playground momentum, and individual skills. I have a lifetime of connecting people to the outdoors through initiating and leading a Canoe Club and Outing Club, working for Outward Bound, fighting for climate progress. As a woodcarver, I always try to incorporate my love of our planet into everything we do. We will draw on community experience from an existing foot path at a neighboring school, Extension service coaching, and skills from other members involved in the process for each skill needed.
How does the group plan to learn about the project’s impact(s) and understand whether this project’s continuation meets a need within the community?:
We will be actively interacting with this project on a day-to-day basis-- as members of the school and our community. This is especially true for the school staff who will be working in such close proximity to our project. As needs arise we will evolve the project. I am staff at the school and am invested in a good outcome, as, I believe, is the whole world on similar goals.
What (if anything) did the group spend during the last calendar year?:
How much money is needed in total to complete the full proposed project?:
Please break-down/categorize the total project costs:
|$ Amount||Item||Covered by Grassroots Fund Grant?||Type Of Expense|
raised beds soil and tools
slate and logs from local businesses
If your group receives a Grow grant, how do you plan to pay for the remaining expenses?:
We are soliciting donations from community members, raising $2075. so far. We will continue in this effort as well as apply for other grants for other expenses of the trail.
Tell us how the group is prepared to manage a Grassroots Fund grant? :
We have a treasurer with the Penquis Community Playground Committee who is managing funds deposited into our school account. There is a sub category for Penquis Nature Trail transactions.
Has your group fundraised or accessed resources in the past?:
What strategies has your group used to fundraise or access resources in the past?:
The Penquis GoGreen group raised money to get started last year from our local Three Rivers Kiwanis. As we expand to the Nature Trail and perennials, we are collecting donations and applying to several grants. Some of the solar panels and grow station accessories have been pursued through Donors Choice projects.
Does the group have a (long-term) fundraising plan to bring in diverse sources of funding?:
Please summarize the group's long-term plan to raise funds:
Several interested parties are well-connected to environmental social issues and understand the critical role connecting communities to food sources and nature plays as we confront climate change. We are committed to doing what it takes to keeping this project active. This will include continuing soliciting donations and grants. It will also rely heavily on community support in volunteer maintenance of the trail once the initial costs are met.
Describe any specific challenges and opportunities your group faces in accessing resources for your work?:
We are working with a low-income community so it is always a challenge to find available resources but we feel that we will be able to gain the support needed to execute this as the need for something like this is quite high.
Please select which of the following RootSkills training topics would be useful for members of your group as they start implementing the project:
- Asset mapping & communications
- Co-creating with young leaders
- Group resilience & governance
Is there anything else we should know about this project? :
Our community has shown itself to be incredibly supportive of the playground/nature trail effort. The school has no playground now, and designing one with a vision to include a community space and nature trail has been very well received, as evidenced by early donations and help with fundraising for both projects.
Please summarize your project request in 2 to 3 sentences:
Penquis Nature Trail seeks to mobilize a community in one of the poorest counties in the state towards an interactive Nature Trail at a newly developing community space at Penquis Schools, understanding fully the need to better connect people to nature and our food sources to combat climate change.