by Faith Rouillard Contributing Writer
Andrew Willihan, Mainely Outdoors Coordinator, and his staff have worked closely with UMF Facilities to construct a unique COVID-19 plan of operations for the 2020-21 school year.
Mainely Outdoors (MO), located next to the Fitness and Recreation Center (FRC), typically provides UMF students and the surrounding community access to outdoor excursions, clinics, and gear rentals. “As a student, you’re limited in terms of storage needed for equipment and limited by your budget,” explains Sam Shirley, a junior majoring in Outdoor Recreation Business Administration (ORBA). “MO offers rentals free for 24 hours to students. It’s a great resource!”
Before COVID-19, MO provided dozens of trips a year throughout the state, where trip participants could use camping gear, mountain bikes, paddleboards, snowshoes, kayaks, and more provided by MO. Now, in order to create a safer environment during the pandemic, MO is only providing mountain bikes and helmet rentals to UMF students. “Currently, we are set up in a format that helps protect us as the employees, as much as the guests and users of [MO],” said Avery Boucher, a MO student staff member.
MO has been following a set of guidelines put in place by UMF Facilities. “Facilities has done an amazing job giving us the tools and resources we need to be able to open and do what we’re doing,” said Willihan. “I feel confident with the way we’re operating.”
Because of the global pandemic, MO is taking meticulous precautions while in operation, such as the one-way route throughout the building in order to maintain social distancing, mask requirements, and providing hand sanitizer. “As the manager, I may be more conservative around how we operate because anything I put in place I first think ‘I’m asking my student staff to do this, too,’” Willihan says. “They have to be in contact, too, so I need to be human conscious first.”
The student lead trips have been restricted to the greater Farmington area. Student leaders are encouraged to lead trips doing physically-distanced activities, such as mountain biking, night hiking, and stargazing. “We are granted a great region to be restricted to,” said Boucher.
Even though MO is being run with less staff than in previous years, they work together as a team and come together with their common love for the outdoors. “Everyone on staff treats it as more than a job,” Shirley says. “We are all so passionate about the outdoors and what we do at MO.”
Mainely Outdoors is using #adventureisnecessary to market themselves this year. This idea stemmed from the outdoors being deemed a safe place for people to be while the virus is active. “We really want to see you,” Willihan says, “we want to get you on a piece of equipment we’re renting and share the outdoors with you.”
UMF students can rent mountain bike equipment at Mainely Outdoors from 11:00 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. To keep up to date on MO’s upcoming events, find them on Facebook—Mainely Outdoors and follow them on Instagram—@umfmainelyoutdoors.
Update: According to an Instagram post from Mainely Outdoors on Sept. 28, 2020, Mainely Outdoors now offers rentals of canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards “until it’s too cold,” the post’s caption says. To reserve paddle sports equipment, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.