ELLSWORTH -— It’s easy to drive past the Birdsacre Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary and not even realize what’s there.
Part injured bird refuge, part nature walk and part history museum, Birdsacre is not easily defined, but for decades the 200 acres of protected land has offered serenity amid the steady growth of retail development all around it.
It’s like the Central Park of Ellsworth, said Stan Richmond, the sanctuary’s steward for nearly 30 years.
“This is meant to be a place of substance, a place of reflection, a place where people can just slow down for a while,” he said.
On Saturday and Sunday, hundreds of people flowed in and out of Birdsacre to celebrate its 50th anniversary with tours, music, food and exhibits. Visitors also got the chance to understand the spirit behind Birdsacre by understanding the sanctuary’s muse, Cordelia J. Stanwood.
“I think people used to think of her as the crazy old bird lady on Beckwith Hill,” said Diane Richmond Castle, Richmond’s sister. “And she was certainly eccentric.”
Stanwood also was a respected naturalist, ornithologist, photographer and writer of the early to mid-20th cen-tury. She may not rank with the likes of Henry David Thoreau or Rachel Carson, but the Ellsworth native live most of her life and did most of her research on the property that now houses Birdsacre.
“Cordie found solace in these woods. I think she would have been pleased that it remains here for others to en-joy,” Castle said.
Both Castle and Richmond have given up parts of themselves to ensure the solvency of Birdsacre, although the siblings have a vested interest. Their father, Chandler Richmond, took an interest in Stanwood in the later part of her life and founded the sanctuary in 1959, one year after her death.
Chandler Richmond learned of Stanwood’s research after joining a bird watching club in the 1950s. When she passed away at age 93, Richmond — with the help of some generous financial backers — purchased her property. Originally 40 acres, the sanctuary has grown to 200 acres, complete with a nature center, a raised boardwalk, sev-eral nature trails and enclosures where injured birds are nursed back to health.
Little pieces of Stanwood are all around. Excerpts from some of her writing has been printed and hung on trees. Her 19th century homestead has been preserved as a natural history museum. Her photographs hang in the nature center.