LEA Science Center gets green light

A HOUSE IN THE WOODS will be transformed into an educational center focusing on lake water quality, now that the Lakes Environmental Center has been given the green light by the Bridgton Planning Board.

A HOUSE IN THE WOODS will be transformed into an educational center focusing on lake water quality, now that the Lakes Environmental Center has been given the green light by the Bridgton Planning Board.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

The Bridgton Planning Board’s Aug. 5th approval of the new Maine Lakes Science Center is being touted, not surprisingly, as a “watershed moment” by Lakes Environmental Association Executive Director Peter Lowell.

Actually, Lowell is using the term to describe the bigger picture, that of bringing forth what was only a concept six years ago into an achievable reality.

LEA still has a significant capital campaign ahead of them to raise the estimated $408,000 it will take to build the center, on 16 acres of land adjacent to Pondicherry Park off the Willett Road. The budget includes $175,000 to purchase the former home of Edward and Constance Flint, which will be renovated and repurposed with living units, lab space, a conference room and educational center.

Another $75,500 needs to be raised for site work for a parking area, access road upgrades and a new septic system. The remaining $157,500 will cover building reconstruction and furnishings, Lowell wrote in LEA’s summer newsletter.

Lowell wrote that the center, once complete, will make Maine a leader in the urgent need for research to build public support for policy changes that will better protect lake water quality. He said the Maine Lakes Society, with which LEA has formed an alliance of lake associations known as the Maine Lake Leaders, estimates “that we have less than two decades to make the changes required to preserve our lakes — or we will lose them forever.”

Lowell said despite the importance of lakes and their watersheds to the economies of towns, “relatively few resources have been devoted to their study and protection,” and what work is being done is accomplished by a handful of regional lake associations with limited resources.

The center will have a 50-foot conference room and a new education center for expanded school and adult programs. The plans include creation of a 100-foot trail link to the Pondicherry Park trail system and to Stevens Brook Elementary School, so that schoolchildren can make regular field trips to the center for learning.

Lowell said several researchers, particularly from the University of Maine but also from around the country have expressed an interest in sending graduate students to study and live at the center.

To satisfy the planning board’s final approval requirements, LEA agreed to provide a six-foot walking trail set into the wood line along the 900-foot-long driveway that leads from Willett Road to the building. Shielded lighting will also be installed along the pedestrian access and walking trail. There will also be six parking spaces provided at the Willett Road entrance, in addition to the parking lot planned near the building. Vegetation will also be trimmed on either side of the road for vehicular safety, and those areas will be mowed.

“Through new partnerships with academic institutions and strengthened partnerships with municipalities, public schools, businesses, land use professionals and lake groups, LEA intends to inform, initiate and support stronger conservation standards and practices” through the new center, Lowell said.

 

 

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