FREEPORT — In 1987, long before “public/private ventures” became fashionable, L.L.Bean issued a small grant to create a Maine Island Trail Association, in partnership with the Maine Department of Conservation and the Island Institute. With this, the grassroots Maine Island Trail Association (often known as “MITA”) and the Maine Island Trail were born. The trail was established based on the notion that visitors to the islands could be entrusted with their care.
Today, 28 years later, this has proven true. The three groups that created the trail continues to thrive and the relationship between L.L.Bean and MITA has matured.
At a recent board meeting, L.L.Bean approved a $100,000 grant to the Maine Island Trail Association and its Wild Islands Campaign. This campaign establishes an endowment to support MITA’s stewardship work on the islands indefinitely. With L.L.Bean’s gift, the Wild Islands Campaign has generated $900,000 for island stewardship.
“For decades, L.L.Bean and the Maine Island Trail Association have shared the common goal of being good stewards of the environment,” said Shawn Gorman, L.L.Bean’s Chairman of the Board. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure that we all have clean, pristine and accessible places to recreate in the outdoors. The Maine Island Trail Association is to be commended for their efforts to make the great outdoors even greater.”
“This is truly an honor,” reports MITA executive director Doug Welch. “Everyone recognizes L.L.Bean as a powerful force in recreation, but this grant reinforces the company’s commitment to stewardship of the natural resources on which recreation depends. The Maine Island Trail would not exist without volunteers caring for the private- and public-owned islands that comprise the trail. So the Wild Islands Campaign will ensure that those volunteers have the tools and coordination needed to get the job done each year.”
Invested with the Maine Community Foundation, MITA’s Wild Islands Campaign endowment fund pays for the purchase, operation, and periodic replacement of MITA vehicles, skiffs, motors, and trailers, plus a portion of the staff expense of coordinating MITA’s volunteers. Anticipated to grow to $2 million, the fund will ensure that the iconic wild islands of Maine’s beautiful coastline will be managed by a volunteer corps of citizen stewards forever.
Today, the American Canoe Association recognizes 567 water trails in the US with the Maine Island Trail having been the first.
L.L.Bean, Inc. is a leading multichannel merchant of quality outdoor gear and apparel. Founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean, the company began as a one-room operation selling a single product, the Maine Hunting Shoe. Still family-owned, Shawn Gorman, great grandson of Leon Leonwood Bean, was named chairman of the board of directors in 2013.