Bridging Communities: Collaborating with Ketcha Outdoors for Creativity and Connection

In the heart of Scarborough, Maine, where the new Piper Shores Meadows Campus meets the sprawling acres of Ketcha Outdoors, a new chapter of collaboration and camaraderie is unfolding. This partnership, rooted in shared values and a passion for nature, is poised to bring about transformative changes for both Piper Shores residents and Ketcha Outdoors visitors while nurturing the vibrant community of Southern Maine.

Meet Ketcha Outdoors

Ketcha Outdoors, a beloved nonprofit organization based in Scarborough, Maine, has a rich history dating back to 1964 when it began as a summer camp. Over the years, Ketcha has evolved and expanded its offerings, including a farm and forest preschool, aftercare programs, and the Portland Gear Hub—a nonprofit retail bike and outdoor gear shop aimed at making outdoor activities more accessible to all.

In 2018, Ketcha Outdoors rebranded to encompass all its diverse programs and initiatives under one unified umbrella. Led by Laragh Kavanaugh, the Executive Director, Ketcha is committed to providing equitable access to outdoor experiences, and promoting well-being, sustainability, and resilient communities.

A Collaborative Vision: Bridging Communities through Nature

“Our 107 acres are right next to Piper Shores’ land, and we’ve had a longstanding partnership with the Scarborough Land Trust,” Laragh explained. This close proximity sparked initial conversations between Ketcha Outdoors and Piper Shores, leading to brainstorming sessions where they devised ideas to enhance their shared spaces for everyone’s benefit.”

During these sessions, they explored ways to make the outdoors more engaging and enjoyable for their communities. “We wanted to enhance our shared spaces and involve more people,” Laragh adds. This collaboration focuses on uniting the communities to enjoy, protect, and conserve natural spaces around us, promoting health and wellbeing within the community. 

Piper Shores Provides Funding to Help Enhance Facilities and Access

As part of this partnership, Piper Shores has extended funding to support the enhancement and upgrading of various facilities and programs at Ketcha Outdoors. This generous support covers essential areas such as funding for trail bridges and property signage, scholarships targeting underserved populations, and the development of a new drama stage for their summer camp.

“Partnering with Ketcha Outdoors reflects our commitment to enhancing lives through nature and sustainability,” said Phil Jean, Piper Shores CEO. “By supporting trail improvements and scholarships, we’re nurturing inclusivity and connectivity within our communities, promoting well-being for everyone involved. Additionally, this partnership underscores our dedication to sustainable landscape management and the preservation of natural spaces for future generations.”

The initiatives funded by Piper Shores not only focus on physical improvements but also underscore a commitment to inclusivity and accessibility in outdoor experiences. “These initiatives not only enhance our facilities but also ensure increased access to the outdoors for all, promoting wellbeing and resilience within our communities,” Laragh affirms. By bridging gaps and creating opportunities, this funding lays the groundwork for a more vibrant and inclusive outdoor community, welcoming individuals from diverse backgrounds to come together and become environmental stewards. 

1. New Trail Bridges & Property Signage

Piper Shores’ funding facilitates a substantial enhancement of the shared trail network between Ketcha Outdoors and Piper Shores, including the installation of new bridges along the trails and the addition of essential signage for the Ketcha property. These enhancements will seamlessly connect the communities and inspire residents and visitors alike to explore and appreciate their natural surroundings.

2. Empowering Access Through Camp Scholarships

“The scholarships for underserved populations are particularly impactful,” Laragh emphasizes. “They open doors for individuals who may not have had the opportunity to engage with nature otherwise.” 

These scholarships embody the belief that nature should be accessible to all, regardless of background, fostering inclusivity and diversity within the community. By providing financial assistance, Ketcha Outdoors and Piper Shores empower individuals to connect with nature, deepen their appreciation for the environment, and cultivate a sense of belonging in the Maine outdoor community.

3. Enriching Experiences with A New Drama Stage 

Piper Shores’ funding will also support the construction of a new drama stage at Ketcha Outdoors, set to become a central hub for performances, and community gatherings. Laragh emphasizes the transformative impact of this addition, stating, “The new drama stage will be a game-changer for our summer camp kids and anyone else utilizing our beautiful property for events.” This stage will provide a dedicated space for summer campers to showcase their talents, engage in drama activities, and explore creative expression. Moreover, it will serve as a venue for community events, workshops, and gatherings, fostering connections and enhancing experiences for individuals of all ages at Ketcha Outdoors.

Celebrating Community Collaboration

In the spirit of collaboration, Piper Shores residents recently joined the Ketcha Outdoors staff and Scarborough Land Trust volunteers for a successful Trail Clean-up day, hosted May 4th, 2024. Together, we planted native tree saplings, cleared away brush and fallen trees from the winter storms, and blazed the shared trail network to help hikers easily identify the trails, enhancing the overall hiking experience. Piper Shores will also be hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 31st, in partnership with Ketcha Outdoors and the Scarborough Land Trust, to celebrate the newly implemented kiosk trailhead at the Meadows Campus, marking a new milestone for our community trails. Ketcha Outdoors extends its heartfelt thanks to the Piper Shores’ woodshop residents for their contributions and will be looking to plan a ceremony honoring their work soon. 

Building a Sustainable and Inclusive Future

Looking ahead, Laragh envisions a long-term impact from this partnership, as it will hopefully open doors for more opportunities to work together in the future. “This collaboration aligns perfectly with Ketcha Outdoor’s organizational priorities and goals for 2024,” she affirms. “It’s not just about physical improvements or events—it’s about building lasting connections, fostering environmental stewardship, and enriching the lives of all involved.”

Laragh’s hope is to get the Piper Shores residents more involved with Ketcha and its participants, as they have so much experience and wisdom to share with Ketcha’s kids. This first step sets the stage for a sustainable and inclusive future for both Piper Shores and Ketcha Outdoors, where everyone feels welcome to explore, learn, and grow together.

To learn more about Ketcha Outdoors and their programs and facilities, visit their website.