BELGRADE LAKES — The Maine Lakes Resource Center will not open until later this month, but those who got a sneak peek at the facility Monday believe the wait will be worth it.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Mike Leis, who owns a camp on Long Pond.

Construction of the 3,500-square-foot building in the village began in October. It is scheduled to open July 30. Those involved in the program hope to increase public education on protecting lakes across the state.

The resource center is an initiative of Docks to Doorways, a coalition of Colby College and conservation-minded groups, including the Belgrade Lakes Association and the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance.

“Our primary goal is to teach people how to live next to the lake in a way that doesn’t adversely impact it,” said Peter Kallin, executive director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance.

Plans call for a new community park next to the post office and restoration of public docks and a boathouse for the historic mail boat made famous by the movie “On Golden Pond.”

The group raised $2.5 million with a $450,000 challenge grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation to acquire two village properties on the shore of Great Pond to construct the resource center and conservation park.

“The building is not quite done yet, but we want to give people a taste of what’s coming,” Kallin said. “There are a lot of people who donated who want to see where there money went.”

The open post-and-beam construction, and wooden floors, are inviting while creating the feel of a traditional Maine barn. The center is capable of holding up to 80 people for art showings, lectures and concerts. Outside there will be opportunities for public gatherings, such as farmers markets.

The idea behind the center is to draw people who ordinarily are not attracted to conservation lectures, then “convert” them, Kallin said.

“Most of the venues I go to now, I’m preaching to the choir,” he said. “We need more people to join the choir, or at least sway to the music.”

The resource center is designed to lead by example, beginning with rainwater runoff, all of which is diverted into two nearby gardens situated between the center and Great Pond.

“All the stormwater runoff is filtered through the gardens before going into the lake,” Kallin said, adding that filtering not only cleans the water but also cools it.

The center’s septic system filters out arsenic and phosphorus before what remains leaches into the soil, Kallin said.

“It puts out a very clean leachate,” Kallin said, “much cleaner than a traditional septic system.”

Larry Fleury, who serves on the Congress of Lakes Association, had only seen pictures of the building prior to Monday’s preview. Fleury said he likes the beams and open feel in the building.

“It’s great,” he said.

Fleury said he hopes the center leads the way in educating people about the effect they can have on lakes.

“If we can change the attitude, we can change the actions,” Fleury said.

His wife, Diane Fleury, is impressed with the number of organizations that helped create the center.

“This shows what can happen when everyone works together,” she said.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

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