In this February 2021 file photo, Ruby Beane (right) ice fishes while friend Sam Wingard checks out the action below the ice during the Penobscot County Conservation Association's annual kids fishing day in Brewer. Credit: Courtesy of John Holyoke

Protecting natural resources is at the heart of the efforts of the Brewer-based Penobscot County Conservation Association.

The group, which also works to preserve outdoor heritage with hunting, fishing and trapping, has been a fixture in eastern Maine since 1938.

“[Penobscot County Conservation Association’s] core mission is conservation and the work we do to conserve lands and habitat,” said organization board member Daniel Bell, “but above that we also provide scholarships for outdoor education, forestry, ranger programs, Game Warden school and things like that.”

As the group moves into the summer of its 84th year, it faces challenges in continuing to provide the services, education and scholarships that are at the core of its mission. The organization of approximately 200 members is aware that to prosper in the years to come, it must recruit new — and younger — members.

That’s part of its motivation for holding “Family Fun Day” on Saturday on the Penobscot River at 570 North Main St. in Brewer.

“It’s a day that families can bring the kids out, enjoy the outdoors, maybe learn a little bit about some of our outdoor heritage and just have fun,” Bell said.

The group hopes providing a positive experience can serve as the impetus for encouraging youngsters to embrace conservation early.

“The challenge is to get our younger folk involved, to not only be members of the club, but also be working members,” Bell said. “In other words, be working volunteers who can come out and support the projects that we do, and eventually be on the board, be the next leaders of the club.”

Bell pointed to his own personal introduction to Penobscot County Conservation Association as providing some inspiration to join the group. He took his hunter safety course through the organization in 1976, when he was 11 years old.

“You see a lot of older folks that are going to be aging out, and that is the biggest challenge of the day, is recruiting younger folk to come in and be the next leaders in the club,” said Bell, who explained the Penobscot County Conservation Association also is working to improve its website and social media presence to engage a younger clientele.

The organization also conducts an annual kids ice fishing day.

Behind the scenes, the group has been trying to overcome significant financial shortfalls it encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the last three years, it has not been able to hold its signature fundraising event, the Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show.

Undaunted, the Penobscot County Conservation Association has tried to maintain its outreach and education programs. The organization also sponsors the Bangor Gun Show, which was held in September 2021 after a one-year, pandemic-induced hiatus.

“We have some talented leadership that just had to pull the bootstraps up and really pull things together, and we weathered the storm. It hasn’t been easy,” Bell said.

He pointed to recently elected president Woody Higgins as one of the longtime members who has been instrumental in the organization’s success.

The presence of groups like the Penobscot County Conservation Association has built a foundation of conservation awareness in eastern Maine, and Bell said it hopes to boost its influence moving forward.

Saturday’s event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will include numerous activities including fly tying, fly casting and trout fishing in the pond, canoe rides on the river, archery lessons, trapping education, and presentations on owls and ticks. Maine Game Wardens will be in attendance to talk about their work.

The event is free to all participants and will include lunch. Donations will be accepted and children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

There also will be fly rod and fishing pole giveaways.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...