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Raymond and Danielle Ruby live in Portland. The Ruby family has been visiting all of Maine’s state parks over the last four years. They are returning to many of them again and are now including Maine’s Public Lands and historic sites as well.

We are a full-time family with jobs and daycare during the week, so trips to Maine’s state parks are our course correction when life needs to slow down a bit. They refocus us and help the little things become big things again.

There is another reason for this mission — to visit them all, and to see if our kids fall as deeply in love with Maine as we have. Our simple parental approach: We treated Maine as our playground before kids, so why change after having them? We figured the state parks were the best introduction and we have learned that we’re not alone.

We aren’t the only ones who are visiting these places. In fact, there were more than 3 million visitors to Maine’s state parks in 2020, an all-time high. This was during a time the likes of which most of us have never lived through and a time in which the world pretty much closed down. The doors were slammed shut and it seemed like almost nothing was safe, except for spending time outdoors.

We all learned that not only was it safe, it would be the easiest and healthiest way to stay sane. These lands, these parks, were there when we needed them the most, but they’ve actually always been there for us.

Our oldest daughter is 4 years old and she has camped close to 15 times at all of the state park family campgrounds. Our youngest started camping at these locations when she was 2 months old and has been trying to catch up to her big sister ever since.

This concentrated effort we have to spend time outdoors as a family in Maine has no end. Well, the hope is that it never ends, but it is clear there is work that needs to be done for it to continue, and it comes at a cost.

Now we know that paying the camping fees, buying the seasonal park pass, being nice to staff and doing our outdoorsy part isn’t enough right now. We need to ensure Maine’s state parks will be here for generations to come. We believe that it’s time for us to invest in our state parks to ensure all Mainers and tourists alike can have safe, accessible outdoor places to enjoy, long after we are gone.

According to the Maine Bureau of Public Lands, Maine state parks have amassed a $50 million maintenance backlog. Many facilities are falling apart and have not been repaired in decades. There’s a good chance something at your favorite location needs to be updated or improved, right now.

A bill is being considered in the Maine Legislature this year, LD 983, to invest $20 million in our state parks and $60 million in the Land for Maine’s Future program over the next five years. With interest in the outdoors at an all-time high and bond interest rates at a low, now is the time for a bond package to support Maine’s outdoor industry and heritage.

It is important, as the world heals around us, to remember who was in our corner all along. Our little family supports a bond to improve, protect and preserve the Land for Maine’s Future and Maine’s state parks. We hope you do too and if you are still unsure, pick a park and let’s take a walk together. We have a feeling our children will light a fire in you to do something because they are the same reason why we are no longer staying quiet and writing this column.

We can all keep enjoying what we have been given today, but it is time to start planning for tomorrow. Let’s give others the same opportunity to fall in love with Maine in the same ways we’ve all had.