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September / October 2003


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UMaine Today Magazine


University of Maine Foundation

Orono Bog
 

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Beauty in the Bog

It is a pristine, remote wilderness few people have ever seen or experienced. Here, 100-year-old dwarfed spruce trees on the shrub-covered heath grow no taller than a person. Bog rosemary, insect-eating pitcher plants and 20 species of orchids are among the diverse, acid-tolerant plants able to eke out an existence in the infertile peatland, situated, in part, on university-owned land. The 616-acre Orono Bog is a bird-watcher's paradise.

This summer, the mile-long, wheelchair-accessible Orono Bog Boardwalk opened to the public. It culminated seven months of work by teams of volunteers, the Maine Conservation Corps and a host of contributors interested in providing access to an area formerly reached only by the hardiest hikers.

Most recently, the Orono Bog Endowment Fund was established with the University of Maine Foundation to ensure the future of the boardwalk in the nature reserve.

The effort to build the boardwalk winding from the Bangor City Forest into the bog was led by University of Maine biologist Ronald Davis, who has spent the last 15 years doing research to unlock the secrets of such wetlands around the world.

In 1974, the National Park Service designated the Orono Bog as a National Natural Landmark, confirming what Davis already knew: bogs have regional significance and have much to teach. The first lesson, says Davis, is simply one of beauty. Seeing a bog up close can be a thrilling journey into another world.

Just as important is the quiet unfolding of nature the interplay of light, water and land that gives rise to specialized life-forms growing on top of peat that is 25 feet deep in some places. Interpretive stations along the boardwalk and guided tours help visitors learn about and appreciate the different peatland environments and types of vegetation that the trail traverses.

 

UMaine Today Magazine
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