Teens To Trails Conference 2007

This past Saturday, March 24th, Emily Mitchell, AMC's Education Programs Coordinator, and I were able to attend the first ever Teens to Trails Conference, produced by the newly formed non-profit organization, "Teens To Trails". This is an excellent organization whose focus is to introduce Teens to the outdoors.

Here is some background on the Teens To Trails organization:

Sara Leone is surrounded in this picture, sent by her mother, Carole, by all of her Wiscasset High school Outing Club friends.
The Earth lost a friend when 15-year-old Sara Leone was killed in a car accident in July of 2005.

"Sara had a way of soaking up her surroundings," says her mother, Carol Leone. "She loved the out-of-doors. Now, we are left with so many wonderful family memories of hiking, camping, paddling, picking blueberries, finding sand dollars, scuba diving - all together - and always outside."

Her mother credits this time spent outdoors for developing Sara's amazing passion for life. "What people remember is that Sara made the most of every day and that she always had that beautiful smile on her face. I'm glad we took the time to experience life - to explore parts of Maine that most people will never see."

But what about those kids who have never had the opportunity to discover the natural world? What happens to the health and well being of our teenagers when their knowledge of the world comes from TVs and videos - when they are merely observers of life?

Dedicated to Sara's memory, the Leones have spearheaded a new organization, called Teens To Trails, to increase the opportunities for Maine's teens to get back outside, focusing initially on support for high school Outing Clubs. Teens To Trails has drawn together a remarkable group of people to make that happen, steadily gaining support and momentum.

"We know from experience that Outing Clubs are successfully engaging teens with the outdoors," Leone said. "But not many schools are lucky enough to have teachers volunteer to accompany students on outdoor adventures. It can be a daunting task. With a network of support in place for teachers and other outdoor leaders, we hope to encourage these programs all over Maine."

As their first major outreach project, Teens To Trails is bringing together Maine outdoor leaders and the public for the first Teens To Trails Conference '07 to be held on March 24 at Windham High School. The goal is to share information on the best practices, the best places, the best recreational opportunities, and the safest ways to take young people outdoors in Maine. The conference is open to everyone, but pre-registration is required to be included for lunch.

Outdoor experts and enthusiasts will be conducting workshops on everything from Backpacking Essentials, Winter Camping, and Orienteering to Bike Maintenance, Ski Tuning and Cooking Over a Campfire. L.L. Bean's Outdoor Discovery School instructors will offer beginner fly-casting sessions and Windham High School will open its indoor rock wall to registered conference attendees.

Also on hand will be knowledgeable staff from Maine's premier trail systems, including Baxter State Park, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Maine Island Trail, and Appalachian Trail. For wildlife lovers there will be workshops that feature Maine's eagles and loons and the Chewonki Foundation's owls of Maine. Conference participants will be able to sign up for three different workshop sessions.

Teens To Trails is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization established to increase the opportunities for teens to experience the out-of-doors and form a personal connection with nature. The organization's vision is increased public awareness of the importance of that connection to a teenager's mental and physical well-being.

If you would like more information about Teens To Trails please visit www.TeensToTrails.org

Teens To Trails Conference ’07

Our Conference is appropriately titled “At the Trailhead: Beginnings” as this is the kick-off event for our new non-profit organization and the start of our work to get more teens out-of-doors.

“How can I pull together words to match how I am feeling today? All I can say is "What a day!?!?" Thank you for donating your time and sharing your energy to make the Teens To Trails Conference a great success.” – Carol Leone