August 31, 2011

Resource center grand opening set for Friday

BELGRADE LAKES -- Construction of the Maine Lakes Resource Center is complete and a grand opening will be held Friday.

click image to enlarge

The newly erected Maine Lakes Resource Center in Belgrade Lakes.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Construction on the barn-like building begain last fall. Recent finishing touches include a parking area with iInterlocking paver stones, a landscaped yard rimmed with bushes and trees and and a sign out front with removable letters.

Located in the heart of the village at 137 Main St., the resource center is an initiative of Docks to Doorways -- a coalition of Colby College, the Belgrade Lakes Association and the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance.

The group raised $2.5 million with a $450,000 challenge grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation to acquire the property and build the center.

Kathi Wall, executive director of the Lakes Resource Center, said the open house from 1-4 p.m. is for the entire community.

"It's for people who have participated in this project, no matter how," Wall said Tuesday. "People have brought everything from flowers to ideas to money to materials and we want to open it up to the community and let them know it's their space to be used as they wish."

She said the center's focus is to make lake conservation a tradition. She's hoping the center will help increase awareness so decisions made throughout the watershed, no matter if it's land development or road work, will take into consideration the effect on lakes.

"It should be a center for knowledge and fun because knowledge should be fun," she said.

Sue Gawler of Belgrade will be honored with the Eddie Mayer Conservation Award, which is given to an individual who consistently demonstrates a high degree of involvement and dedication to the environment.

State representatives have been invited and the Stone Fox Farm Mobile Cone will be on hand with environmentally friendly ice cream, she said. Local artisans Rhonda Barnes Adlem, who hand-paints camp signs, and Loretta Giacamazzo, who makes porcelain plates with blueberry patterns, will display their work.

The Gawler Family will provide music, she said.

At 7 p.m. people are invited to the film "Finding Belgrade."

"It's a documentary about a young man who went around to the different places named Belgrade and did this documentary," she said. "There's some local stars in it."

Wall said the building and property withstood the hurricane test when tropical storm Irene passed through the lakes region Sunday.

"Everything did so well," she said. "The building remained dry. There was no water in the basement whatsoever, and the rain garden did exactly what it was suppose to do, no pooling of water anyplace."

Polly Beatie, president of the Belgrade Lakes Association, said her group will move into the building within the next three weeks.

Beatie said she is glad to be in the same space with other organizations the association works with on a regular basis.

"The ability to meet with everybody we ordinarily like to stay in contact with is going to be excellent," Beatie said. "And the fact that we'll support each other and work together on programs and events is amazing."

Other awards will be handed out by Peter Kallin, executive director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance. The Bob Joly Conservation Award will be given to two youth conservation corps members, Levi Mason of Hallowell and Jimmy Cumming of Manchester.

He said Joly was one of the founders of the youth corps when it started in 1996. Recipients are chosen for their devotion to conservation.

Kallin said the open house will be a welcoming event for the community.

"We've had a few events so far that have been well received and attended," Kallin said.

The center's full basement will be used by Colby College researchers and the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance's Youth Conservation Corps.

Offices upstairs will belong to lake organizations, including the conservation alliance, lakes association and the Congress of Lake Associations. Wall also will have her own office.

Mechele Cooper -- 621-5663

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