In 2007 a group of volunteers from the Belgrade Lakes Association conceived a plan to purchase both the site of the current post office and an empty lot in the center of Belgrade Lakes Village. The plan called for restoring the docks behind the post office reconnecting Great Pond residents once again to the Village, providing permanent office space for the BLA and BRCA in an existing building on the post office site, and creating a small park on the empty lot. The initiative was aptly named “Docks-to-Doorways” and planning ensued.
Support for the plan grew and with it more community involvement. Colby College and the BRCA joined the BLA as founding partners, and Maine COLA became an active participant. Over time the plan evolved. There was recognition among the various conservation groups that their missions both overlapped and were complimentary. All were concerned with making property owners better environmental stewards, and all recognized that better stewardship requires meaningful change in consumer behavior and community standards. Conservation had to become more visible and built into the fabric of the community. So it was decided that the empty lot, rather than a park, would be better suited for a signature building dedicated to supporting the conservation efforts of local and regional conservation groups. A new building would not only bring prominence to conservation, but fill a gaping hole in the Village streetscape. It was also decided to create a small green space at the post office site, opening up pleasant views to the stream and enhancing the Village center.
The building, subsequently named the Maine Lakes Resource Center, would be built in the style of an old barn, in part to evoke the past. This Resource Center would not only house the BLA and the BRCA, but Maine COLA as well. A field station for Colby scientists was to be included too. In September of 2009, armed with a strong vision, the $2.5 million Docks-to-Doorways campaign commenced. The funds were to be used to purchase and develop the two Village properties. Local and summer residents, town officials, business leaders and representatives of other conservation groups formed various committees to determine the design, mission, fundraising and community impact of the project. By the fall of 2009 enough support had been pledged to allow for the purchase of the two properties. Several additional grants were secured, most notably a major challenge grant by the Harold Alfond Foundation. The campaign goal was reached by the end of 2010. Construction had commenced a few months earlier, in October. Built entirely by local tradesmen, antique beams were sourced from an old barn located in Pennsylvania. The building was largely finished by the end of June and was available for viewing over the Fourth of July of 2011. The Governor visited a few weeks later, and a grand opening was held in early September.
At the post office site, now the MLRC Annex, the docks were restored and on July 4, 2011, were opened to the public for the first time in three years. In February of 2012, the old marina building next to the post office was demolished and work began on the new green space, which was completed in the spring of 2012. In June of 2014 the MLRC Annex, an interactive science and art studio, was opened to the public.
For a historical perspective on the Belgrade Lakes Region, please visit the site of the Belgrade Historical Society.