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More than 200 Mainers Set to Take Polar Bear Plunge


Friday, December 30, 2016   

PORTLAND, Maine - With temperatures forecast to be in the mid to upper 20s, a group of dedicated Mainers will be taking a plunge into the Atlantic on Saturday at East End Beach in Portland to draw attention to climate change.

This will be the seventh year that Dr. Tony Owens, an emergency-department physician at Maine Medical Center, is taking the polar bear dip. He said all these folks braving the cold get people talking, and for some it may be the first time that they are talking about the impacts of climate change.

"My primary goal," he said, "is to support that mission of highlighting climate change - global warming - and to try to engage citizens in supporting a sustainable environment."

The event, which helps raise funding for the National Resources Council of Maine, kicks off with a 5-kilometer race at 11 a.m. and ends with a noon plunge into the Atlantic Ocean at East End Beach.

Emily O'Donnell, one of the more than 200 who pledged to dash and dip this weekend, said it gets family and friends to understand the depth of her commitment to getting the word out on the need for action to slow climate change.

"Every year when I do this, I run out of the water telling myself this is the last year I am going to do this, and I am never going to put myself through this again," she said, "and then every year I always sign up again."

Owens, who also is a board member of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said that when they take the dip they will be at ground zero for one of the major local impacts of climate change: sea-level rise.

"When we dip at the East End Beach, we're right at that tide mark," he said, "A lot of the Portland area is relatively low-lying, and as sea level rises, that's going to have an impact, and NRCM has published some maps highlighting how that might play out."

The youngest Mainer who pledged to dash and dip this year is 8 years old; the oldest is 78.

Registration information is online at Participants still can register on Saturday beginning at 9:30 a.m.

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