GREENVILLE, Maine — Mildred Kennedy-Stirling was a teenager when she first heard community members talking about the need for an educational visitors center in this tourist community surrounded by forest and bodies of water.
More than two decades later, Kennedy-Stirling is helping to build the center, which residents such as the late Dr. Paul Fichtner had envisioned in those earlier years. Kennedy-Stirling serves as president of the Natural Resources Education Center, or NREC, a nonprofit organization that was created in 1991 and embraced the visitors center concept.
Since its inception, NREC has served as an educational center without walls, teaching youngsters and adults alike about the natural resources and culture of the region, but it soon will have a home.
In partnership with the town of Greenville, NREC is moving forward on construction of a center on Route 15 in a place that overlooks the 100 Mile Wilderness, a mountainous terrain containing the Appalachian Trail between Monson and Mount Katahdin.
“It really breathes hope into the potential of the Moosehead region to be a four-season destination,” Kennedy-Stirling said Thursday of the proposed center. Visitors will be able to stop and get information about the region, become educated about the unique partnership landowners have with Maine residents, and learn more about the water resources and the wildlife, she noted. “An educated visitor has a better stay, but they also tread softly and don’t leave footprints.”
Construction on the $253,000 building is expected to begin this fall. A federal grant in that amount was awarded for the project. A $50,000 donation announced this week from Brookfield Renewable Power will allow NREC to substitute steel I-beams in the center’s downstairs education center in place of support columns, Kennedy-Stirling said.
In addition, Brookfield’s funds will provide for a kiosk with information on the benefits of hydropower and public safety at hydroelectric facilities; for books and educational materials on Maine’s native species, including taxidermy and woodcarvings; and for NREC’s youth and adult programming.
“Collaborating with NREC on this exhibit for its new building is a natural fit for Brookfield as we own and operate 27 hydropower facilities or storage dams on Maine’s Penobscot, Kennebec and Androscoggin rivers,” and areas nearby Greenville, Brian Stetson, general manager of Brookfield’s New England operations, said in a press release. “The new center will be a great educational resource and an excellent place to highlight the importance of the area’s rivers and lakes.”
Tim Obrey, NREC’s vice president, said the organization is fortunate to have Brookfield as a corporate partner. “With Brookfield’s generous donation, we will be able to showcase the important role that hydropower plays in this region,” he said.
Kennedy-Stirling said the center would house the Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce and the Forest Society of Maine. There will be orientation and interpretation services, educational exhibits, on-site and off-site programs, and public restrooms. The property also has interpretive trails for the public’s use.
For information on NREC, visit www.naturalresourceeducationcenter.org.