By Charity Webster, contributing writer
The current pandemic has really made UMF have to think outside the box in the sense of student body activities. This challenge has been extremely difficult due to the past and current restrictions on the students gathering together. Mainely Outdoors (MO) has great programs that students can be involved in and stay socially distanced without a mask. They offer so many COVID-friendly options at no cost to the students. If hiking is your game or if you like snowshoeing in the winter, Mainely Outdoors has you covered.
“We have all types of ability trips, beginner’s trips are the place for someone to learn something new” said Sam Shirley, Student Leader and Kat Robinson, Program Supervisor.
Mainely Outdoors was founded by James Toner, a man who loved the outdoors and wanted to bring that to the UMF student body. He was passionate about this club and the great state of Maine’s outdoor activities. Since then he has passed on this passion to other students like Sam Shirley.
“Sam is currently the passion of MO and why MO is so active at this time, he is the one to continue to drive the club, we are very thankful for the time and effort that Sam put in during COVID and keeping the program alive” Assistant Director of the Fitness and Recreation Center Allison Thayer said.
Shirley clears the paths and lawns at Prescott Trails, maintains the trails all year long, and is currently training Robinson to replace him after he graduates. He has been with MO since his Freshman year. He grooms the cross country trails, and preps and leads the weekly mountain biking trip. You can rent equipment of your choice at MO at no cost to you as long as you agree to return the equipment in a timely manner.
James Toner passed away in 2018, and his legacy lives on through Mainely Outdoors. His scholarship is given to a sophomore who demonstrates a passion for the outdoors and is in a related major. “This is a substantial and giving scholarship for students who may be in the Outdoor Program at UMF.” said Robinson
Activities that MO offers includes canoeing trips, kayaking, camping, mountain biking, and hiking. Winter is fast approaching and they will soon offer snowshoeing, hiking, rock climbing, cross country skiing, indoor ice skating, and some downhill ski trips.
“Leading hiking trips is Robinson’s favorite part about MO, and it’s getting a “bit chilly” for boating but they do rent canoes and kayaks.” said Robinson.
“The most popular activity is coming up November 13, to spend the day at Acadia National Park,” said Shirley. On this day trip to Acadia, they will take a driving tour through part of the park, stop at a variety of roadside stops, and do a few short hikes (< 3 miles). This trip is provided at no cost to students, and they provide the transportation! Be sure to register soon to reserve your spot as this is a popular trip.
Additionally, whenever there is a full moon, Robinson leads a local full moon hike.
Find information on the James Toner Scholarship by visiting the website: https://www.umf.maine.edu/alumni/the-james-toner-memorial-scholarship-fund/ Go to Mainely Outdoors Facebook page and LIKE it, to find out more on upcoming events! Mainely Outdoors is located at 114 Quebec St. Farmington, Maine or call 207-778-7373
by Natausha Cogley, Contributing Writer
Tommy Hainsworth (pictured) and Sam Shirley (not pictured) lead a stargazing trip in UMF’s backyard.
Photo courtesy of Sam Shirley.
Mainely Outdoors ventured out on Oct. 4th at 7:30 p.m. for a stargazing trip to Prescott and Intervale field.
UMF Junior, Sam Shirley, has been working for Mainely Outdoors (M.O) for two years now. Due to COVID-19, the company has experienced some limitations with what they can do. “We [M.O] are limited to what we can do because we can’t transport anyone by vans anymore,” Shirley said. “We have to get a little more creative with the stuff we can do. This is just something a little different that we don’t do often.”
This trip took place on Oct. 4 and students met at the M.O. building at 7:30 p.m. The program lasted until 9:00 p.m. The only things necessary to bring were appropriate walking clothes and a blanket if desired.
Students had the opportunity to get some fresh air while enjoying a tranquil evening walk, gazing at the stars and moon as they glisten in the sky.
“We took a short walk to Prescott Field,” Shirley said. “It’s was a relaxing trip–hanging out in the fields, looking at the stars–and it’s a great way to get some fresh air.”
The moon was to be in the waning gibbous phase illuminating the sky. Shirley and his coworker Tommy Hainsworth were there to help point out constellations and stars.
“Tommy and I are not exactly experts at this stuff, but we can point out some basic constellations,” Shirley said. “The moon is relatively bright, so it was a nice night to be out in the field.”
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.