BELGRADE LAKES — For years, boaters who came to visit the village anchored their craft behind the old marina and post office on Mill Stream between Great Pond and Long Pond.

Now activists say they have support to keep that marina from being torn down, and they hope town officials will listen to them.

A local business owner said she has more than 100 signatures on a petition that would save the marina and help maintain the quaint character of Belgrade Lakes village.

“I don’t know how one individual can come into town and change the whole look of Belgrade Lakes village,” said Jan Partridge of Balloons & Things, which is across Main Street from the marina building.

In 2004, the marina building’s owner stopped allowing public use after 70 years of public dock access.

In 2009, the Belgrade Lakes Association joined with Colby College and the Belgrade Lakes Regional Conservation Association in a $1.5 million Docks to Doorways capital campaign — with help from a $450,000 challenge grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation — to restore public access, a plan that included buying and renovating the building, repairing the docks and boathouse, and buying a lot down the street to turn into green space.

The plan eventually grew to include tearing down the old marina building instead of refurbishing it, and the land several hundred yards south on Main Street originally slated for green space became home to the 3,500-square-foot Maine Lakes Resource Center, which opened at the end of the summer. The Belgrade Lakes Association moved from the marina building, which also houses a gift shop, to the new resource center.

In July, the docks behind the old marina also reopened to the public.

The current plan calls for razing the old marina while leaving the attached post office. The Docks to Doorways project envisions the land where the marina is eventually becoming  Mill Stream Park, opening views of the stream to Main Street, which is also Route 27. Space behind the post office would be  renovated for retail space, according to its website.

“I’ve been to two selectmen’s meetings, and it looks like they’re going to take it down,” Partridge said, referring to the marina.

Partridge said tourists come year after year to the village to experience a Maine summer tradition.

“We’re in the business of catering to the tourists,” she said. “People are happy to come to Belgrade for vacation; but then, once they buy property, all of sudden you have this group that wants to see things changed.”

Kathi Wall, the resource center’s executive director, said a public forum will be held in the summer so everyone can weigh in on the plan.

“There is great support for the work that’s going to be going on here,” Wall said. “Not everyone supports the petition. I don’t expect everyone to agree. I just expect that everyone is going to be able to join in the conversation when the (Maine Lakes Resource Center) board makes its decision. When everyone on the board is in agreement, then we’ll come to the community and have a discussion with them in an open community forum.”

Code Enforcement Officer Greg Fuller said no permit application has been submitted to demolish the marina. If one is submitted, it will go to the Planning Board, he said.

Town Manager Gregory Gill said Partridge attended a Selectboard meeting a few weeks back to discuss her petition. After the meeting, selectmen asked Wall to come in and answer questions.

“We asked (Wall) when they were tearing it down, and she said they hadn’t made their mind up yet,” Gill said. “They have obtained figures for the cost of having it razed and had the code officer see what they can do with that property as far as developing it.

“But anybody who challenges the history of Belgrade Lakes, you’re going to have residents fairly concerned about it, which I don’t blame them.”

Wall said residents and out-of-staters all had a hand in developing the plan to build the resource center and raze the marina.

She said a small number of people are unhappy with the resource center and the plan to remove the marina, and she worries opponents will become the most vocal while those who support the projects “won’t see the necessity to make a lot of noise.”

Wall said several people who signed Partridge’s petition told her they signed without knowing what it was about.

Selectman Penny Morrell said people in town have reason to be upset. Many were unhappy with the size and location of the lakes resource center, she said, and now there’s the threat of losing a landmark marina.

She said locals want to keep their village intact.

“I support them,” Morrell said of the petitioners. “They went ahead and built that big building without any consideration of the people in town. It doesn’t fit the character of the village. The least they could do is grant this request to help rectify things.”

Messages left for Tom Klingenstein, a summer resident from New York and chairman of the Maine Lakes Resource Center’s executive committee, were unreturned.

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663
[email protected]

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