BELGRADE LAKES — There wasn’t much anyone could do to prevent the Maine Lakes Resource Center, which some consider an “eyesore,” from being built at the heart of this tiny village.

But a local group believes something can be done to prevent the same nonprofit organization that built the center from tearing down a historic building on Main Street.

The group is circulating a petition to save a marina built more than 60 years ago that houses the post office, a retail store, and offices for the Belgrade Lakes Association and the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance, which will relocate to the new resource center after its grand opening on July 30.

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, to increase public education about protecting lakes. The Belgrade Lakes Association launched the project in 2009 with the Docks to Doorways fundraising campaign.

The organization bought the marina building along with a vacant lot on Main Street for the resource center. The group wants to raze a section of the marina building– the post office will remain — and build a park with access to public docks.

Bonnie Mulville, who leases the space slated to come down for her gift shop, April 56, said there has been enough change in the village with the new resource center.

“The old marina is part of Belgrade Lakes,” Mulville said Friday. “There’s no reason to tear it down. We don’t need another park. The building has good bones. It’s just a great old building that has a lot of character and a lot of history.”

Jan Partridge, who owns Balloons & Things across the street, said people have been coming in and signing the petition on the counter in her shop.

Partridge, who has lived in the village 45 years, said she’s all for improving the quality of the lakes. But she said the organization went overboard when it built the two-story, 3,500-square-foot resource center.

“They should have used common sense, and now they want to take down this place here, which would be a disaster,” she said. “If it’s torn down there will be picnic tables and nice trash cans, but then you’re going to have kids hanging out there at night,” she said. “What they’ve done so far is an absolute crime, and I definitely don’t want to see it happen again.”

Kathi Wall, the newly appointed executive director of the resource center, would not comment.

Gail Rizzo of Lakepoint Real Estate in Belgrade Lakes, said she is the spokeswoman for the nonprofit organization, which she said is moving forward with the grand opening of the resource center on July 30.

Rizzo confirmed that the old marina is scheduled to be razed.

“We haven’t wavered from what we were doing,” Rizzo said. “The docks are in and the post office is going to stay there. We’re not there yet so I don’t know why people are so concerned. It’s too early to tell if there is a petition.”

Mel Croft, who was the interim executive director of resource center before Wall was hired, said the original plan was to dismantle the marina at the end of the season.

“But the most common thinking right now probably is that we’re going to wait until next year,” Croft said. “There’s nothing driving us to do it this year.”

Kathy Lowell, former Belgrade Lakes Association president, co-chaired the Docks to Doorways Committee with Rizzo.

Lowell said she stepped aside when plans changed and the organization decided to tear down the marina and build the resource center on Main Street. Lowell, who serves on the Maine Preservation Commission Board of Directors, said one of the objectives of the committee had been to preserve the marina.

That all changed when Tom Klingenstein, a summer resident from New York, became involved in the project. Klingenstein, chairman of the executive board of directors, referred all media inquiries to Rizzo.

“I guess people wanted to do things differently, the plans changed when Tom came forward and there was new leadership at the BLA,” Lowell said. “The people who were the decision makers at that point said ‘no, this is the direction we’re going to go and we need big money.'”

She said $2.5 million needed to be raised to buy the properties and build the resource center.

Original plans were to raise $1.5 million, buy and renovate the old marina building, build docks and repair the boathouse. Those plans also included the purchase of the vacant lot where the resource center now stands. That was to be left as green space, Lowell said, with public docks.

Lowell said she wants to try to save the old marina, which was built by the Johnson family in the late 1940s.

“People signing the petition don’t want to see the building torn down,” she said. “We talk about cultural landscapes. You’ve got the streamscape and the streetscape. We’ve got this lovely little Main Street in a New England village. The (lakes resource) center is there. It’s built and there’s nothing that can be done. But the marina building is still here and a lot of us would like to see it preserved.”

Lowell said the organization plans to replace the old boathouse on Mills Stream that came with the marina building. The Maine Natural Resource Protection Act allows the replacement of boathouses if it’s done within three years.

As far as history goes, the old marina was first called Johnson’s Marina. Then Darrel Day, whose brother Gary owned Day’s Store across the street, bought the building and called it Day’s Marina.

David Harriman, co-owner of Clark’s Marina in Manchester, said he bought the building in the early 1980s.

“We had it roughly around 10 years,” Harriman said. “We serviced boats in Great Pond. We built the storage building up the street on the other side of the road, which we ended up selling to Bob Gardner of Great Pond Marina. We eventually sold the marina building to Gail Rizzo and she proceeded to put a retail store in there and a couple of other things, including the post office.”

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]

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