WATERVILLE — It’s dirty work, but someone has to do it.

While it didn’t seem all that dirty Sunday morning in a parking lot in Colby College, the thing a group of volunteers were working to build will be used for a rather unsavory thing going forward: bathrooms out on the Appalachian Trail.

The Maine Appalachian Trail Club, an all-volunteer organization that manages nearly 300 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine, held a live demonstration at Colby on how to build a privy, which will later be transported to the Appalachian Trail.

Sherri Langlais, co-chairwoman of the 41st Appalachian Trail Conservancy Conference at Colby, said building the privy was just one part of the conference, which runs Aug. 4 to Aug. 11 at Colby. Other events include a trade show, hikes excursions and more. The conference has over 240 miles of hikes, as well as workshops and other events.

The conference is held biennial and changes location. Each event is put on by the local club.

The privy, which is a kind of outhouse for hikers to relieve themselves in, being built will be on display until Aug. 11, at which point it will be brought to the Appalachian Trial at West Carry Pond.


Building this particular privy is part of a multi-year effort to rebuild the aging privies located along the nearly 2,200-miles of the Appalachian Trail. Laura Flight, a volunteer with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, said the state of privies on the trail has become an issue. She said they’ve become so overused and not kept up with, that people on the trail will more likely relieve themselves on the trail itself, which can lead to contamination. Privies themselves are difficult to build, she explained Sunday morning as volunteers continued to construct the wooden structure. But the hardest part about making sure there are contemporary privies on the trail is a mixture between needing more volunteers and having the manpower to make a privy. All told, Flight said a privy is about 3,000 pounds of material to build, and is very time consuming to make. Usually, it involves volunteers bringing the materials up a trail to construct, and not just transportation of a finished product.

This particular privy is part of an effort by MATC to replace 42 aging privies on Maine’s section of the Appalachian Trail, some of which are decades old. Since 2013, the MATC has replaced fewer than 10 of those 42 privies, but the group hopes to speed up the process.

“A lot of trails are looking for ways to take care of waste,” Langlais said.

Running from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail is maintained by many trail clubs and partnerships, crossing 14 states with an estimated visitor base of 2 to 3 million a year. The last time Maine hosted the Appalachian Trail Conference in 1997, nearly 1,400 people attended events at Sunday River. More than 1,200 participants were expected for the Colby conference.

As for the privy itself, the wooden structure was beginning to take form Sunday morning. It will have to go by boat to its final landing spot when it is finished, and would require many hours of volunteer to work to finish. But it’s just one of many things that the MATC needs help with. Flight said there is an amazing core of volunteers working with the group, but they’d love to see more people get involved.

“We need more people to come out and help us,” Flight said.


People who are interested in volunteering can visit www.matc.org/how-can-i-help/volunteer-opportunities.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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