The new Maine Lakes Resource Center in Belgrade Lakes Village held its grand opening Sept. 2 with its three lead partners — Colby, the Belgrade Lakes Association, and the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance (BRCA) — participating in the ceremony.
In remarks at the opening, Tom Klingenstein, chair of the MLRC board, said key goals of the initiative are to make conservation an integral component of the lakes community and in doing so to make good environmental practices by landowners as obligatory as mowing their lawns.
As part of the ceremony, Colby’s Miselis Professor of Chemistry Whitney King presented the MLRC award to Klingenstein for his vision and his leadership in the creation of the Maine Lakes Resource Center.
The MLRC, prominently located on Route 27 in Belgrade Lakes Village, is a place for conservation organizations to provide community members and lakeside property owners with tested information on best practices designed to minimize or eliminate impacts that are detrimental to water quality.
Several speakers at the opening highlighted the importance of Colby’s role in the center, and when King led a tour of the facility afterward, the strength of the partnership was evident in laboratory facilities for student use and in King’s description of students serving as “conservation docents” who will explain the conservation science to visitors when the students are working in the MLRC building.
Lake water quality has become an increasing concern in the Belgrade Lakes region as development pressure has grown over more than a century that the area has been a summer retreat. In her remarks Kathi Wall P’99, executive director of the MLRC, said people who love the lakes, “sometimes loved them almost to death.”
The entire MLRC facility is a demonstration site as well as a research facility for best practices for living gently on the lakes, King explained. The parking area is intentionally porous, and rainwater that hits there and on the lawns and the roof is all funneled into two settling ponds to minimize nutrients getting into the lakes. Grass is growing on a honeycombed base that won’t compress so it will remain porous, and a layer of aluminum and sensors were installed in part of the septic system as an experiment in extending the its ability to capture phosphorus.
A weather station on the roof was scheduled to post real-time weather data online (Internet service installation was delayed by Tropical Storm Irene), and a webcam will allow viewers to observe best management practices as storm water is managed on the site. The MLRC wants to demonstrate, rigorously test, and communicate the effectiveness of shoreline best-management practices to promote public adoption of erosion control measures, according to King. Ultimately, he and Klingenstein both said, the goal is to change people’s behavior to conserve and improve lake water quality.