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ALT hosts Youth Fishing Day on the Androscoggin

Continuing efforts to reconnect communities of the Androscoggin River to the recreational potential of this major Maine river, the Androscoggin Land Trust (ALT) and its river and trail planning partner, the National Park Service, were scheduled to host today what might be Downtown Lewiston-Auburn’s first Youth Fishing Day.

Through a year-long effort to assess potential land trail and water access to the Androscoggin River between the Androscoggin Riverlands State Park in Turner and Downtown Lewiston-Auburn, a series of community-based events are being coordinated by ALT to reconnect residents to the Androscoggin and solicit their feedback on the experience.

Recognizing the strengths of various state and local partners, ALT has engaged with the very successful “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs” program of the Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to bring programming and resources to the community.

The “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs” (HOFNOD) program is the flagship youth education program of the Future Fisherman Foundation and is sponsored in Maine by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “HOFNOD uses angling skill development as a gateway to teach youth about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and how to deal with the challenges facing them in their young lives,” said Emily McCabe, activities coordinator for the Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

While the event is open to the public, ALT sought a local organization that might benefit from this unique youth event to target its promotion. Tree Street Youth, a new initiative in Downtown Lewiston to offer programming and summer educational support to at-risk youth, became an ideal partner, as many of these children and their families live only a few minutes walk from the downtown riverfront.

“This fishing event is a fantastic way for these local kids to wrap up their summer program,” said Julia Sleeper, director of Tree Street Youth. “With resources often limited for downtown families, providing a fun outdoor experience for these kids to help build pride in their community is exciting. We’re thankful to ALT for coordinating and Maine IF&W for taking the time to introduce these kids to fishing.”

Riverside trails and parks have emerged in Lewiston and Auburn over the last 15 years, but interest is now growing for more water-based activities including kayaking, canoeing and fishing. With a growing number of worn paths emerging along the banks, as local residents seek fishing spots, ALT has moved to include riverbank fishing into its river recreation study.

“We are excited to be playing this coordinating role in the community of Lewiston-Auburn,” said Jonathan LaBonte, executive director of ALT. “Both cities have made significant investments in improvement to the riverfront areas, local groups like Tree Street Youth are seeking to engage young people and empower them to set high expectations for themselves, and Maine IFW has built a great program to connect youth to Maine’s great heritage of outdoor sports. If we can help connect these dots, we are happy to do it.”

ALT was awarded a series of grants for 2011 to focus on planning for land and water trail linkages between Gulf Island Pond and the downtown commercial and residential areas of Lewiston-Auburn. This includes support from the Environmental Funders Network’s Quality of Place Initiative, the Ferguson Foundation, the Davis Conservation Foundation, and technical support from the National Park Service’s Rivers and Trails Program.

The event, scheduled to start this morning, is open to the public. Youth 15 and under were asked to come with an adult or parent, and loaner equipment was available for those without fishing gear.

The Androscoggin Land Trust is a membership supported organization that seeks to protect important natural areas, traditional landscapes, and the outdoor experience in the Androscoggin River watershed by promoting stewardship and supporting a network of public and privately held conservation land. ALT conserves over 4,750 acres of land, including over ten miles of riverfront along the Androscoggin River. For more information, contact ALT at (207) 782-2302 or info@androscogginlandtrust.org. See www.androscogginlandtrust.org.

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