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YMCA receives $110,000 for Outdoor Education & Learning Center

November 9, 2016

The YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston has received a $110,000 grant from the Island Foundation to further develop its Outdoor Education & Learning Center in Auburn.

Funds will be used to expand the existing trail system, build pavilions for outdoor education classes, create grass fields and improve vehicle access onto the property. These enhancements will allow the Y to transition its historic summer day camp program, Camp Connor, to the center full time by 2018, doubling the number of campers to 300 per week.

Steve Wallace, CEO at the YMCA, says, “Our vision is for every person in the greater Androscoggin area to enjoy this natural space and healthy outdoor activity close to home.

“The OELC is the physical expression of our core focus areas -- youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.”

Situated along Stetson and North River roads in Auburn, the 93-acre OELC is being developed as a four-season community recreation and education site. Work began on the property in spring 2015 with the construction of rudimentary trails along Bobbin Mill Brook. Current plans call for the addition of outdoor classrooms and fields, sustainable trails for all abilities, archery range and community gardens. All construction will be to state park standards, with minimal environmental impact.

  

The Island Foundation supports projects in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island with an emphasis on alternative education and projects that promote environmental and global impact. The YMCA proposal was one of a handful of invitation-only special projects under consideration by the board of trustees.

"Our vision is for every person in the greater Androscoggin area to enjoy this natural space and healthy outdoor activity close to home."

Local support for the OELC is strong. This summer, the Maine Army National Guard conducted site work on North River Road valued at $30,000, along with in-kind support from St. Laurent & Son, Inc. The Auburn-Lewiston Rotary Breakfast Club contributed $5,500 toward the construction of an open-air pavilion and trailhead kiosk. Together with the Island Foundation and other grants, total pledged support for the OELC exceeds $300,000.

Several collaborative efforts are already taking place at the OELC as the Y reaches out to nonprofit partners and local municipalities.

In August, teens from St. Mary’s Nutrition Center’s Summer Youth Gardener program were among the first groups to participate in team building and trail service activities at the property.

John Myles, who oversees the Summer Youth Gardener program, says, “Simply being in a positive, natural space and allowing time for the group to take in their environment brought these individuals closer together, and was a great complement to the predominantly urban-based work that we do.

“I truly believe that these students will remember this experience for the rest of their lives.”

The OELC is overseen by Wil Libby, YMCA Camp & Safety Director. In addition to managing the Y’s American Red Cross training programs and summer camp, Libby is a licensed Maine Guide, wilderness first responder and a trained trail maintainer.

Libby says, “It’s a fact that kids and families thrive when they interact with nature and the outdoors. It literally changes how we are wired. All of us at the Y are grateful to the Island Foundation and our many other community volunteers and supporters who are helping to make the Outdoor Education & Learning Center a reality.”

For more information about the OELC, contact Wil Libby at wlibby@alymca.org or 795-4095.

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