PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Like many entities across Aroostook County, Presque Isle’s Nordic Heritage Center has been forced to try out some new methods of operation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But for the center’s Jamie Guerette, the pandemic only makes it more important for people to leave the house and get active. And she hopes that the Summer Trail Challenge will do just that.
The Challenge features five separate hikes, which began at the center’s one-mile Moose Trail on Aug. 2 and will culminate in the largest event at the six-mile West Trail on Aug. 30. People can choose how they cross the trail: hiking, jogging or biking their way through, by themselves or in a group.
While the trails get progressively more difficult each week, Guerette — who crafted the new program — said that each of the included paths is perfect for first-time participants. She said that all of them had also recently been fitted with new signs to ensure people do not get lost.
“Our goal is to just give people the opportunity to get out on the trails,” Guerette said. “And maybe check out a new trail if they’ve been here during the summer.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the center has closely followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, asking residents to wear masks in the parking lot.
However, it does not recommend people do so while on the trail due to safety concerns, including the potential for people to be overwhelmed while biking or running in a mask during hot temperatures. It does recommend those hiking in groups should keep their distance as much as possible.
Participants receive a prize at the end of each trail, all of which are designed to be practical for those who love the outdoors.
The first week’s prize is a neck gaiter — apparel common for winter sports that many are now using as facemasks. Other prizes include a key chain, a bell and frisbee. Participants will receive all their prizes — as well as a few other goodies — at the culmination of the last event in a hiking backpack.
The first four events could be participated in for a $10 fee, in what is a rolling admission — an additional $10 is required for the wrap-up event. About 50 people have enrolled so far.
Guerette said the center had stayed open throughout the pandemic, allowing people to be physically active and have socially distant fun. She hopes to continue that with the Summer Trail Challenge.
“People were looking for stuff to do,” Guerette said. “There’s just the chance to come out here and stay to yourself.”