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Updated: October 24, 2023

Visitor center for national wildlife refuge to break ground in Kennebunk

stream woods and rocks Courtesy / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in southern Maine will have expanded visitor services at a revamped facility in Kennebunk slated to open in 2026.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will start construction this week on an office and visitor center in Kennebunk.

The project includes remodeling an existing building at 188 Brown St. and building a new visitor services wing there, according to a news release.

The result will be an 11,666-square-foot facility designed to house 15 full-time staff and welcome visitors at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and the service’s Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. The refuge is at 321 Port Road in neighboring Wells.

The design includes an exhibit hall, trails and a multipurpose room equipped for up to 45 people for environmental education programs and other events.

“This facility is going to be a wonderful resource to better support both refuge and coastal program staff and to connect people to the natural beauty and wildlife habitats here in southern coastal Maine,” said Karl Stromayer, manager of the refuge.

The architect was Oak Point Associates of Biddeford, while Benchmark Construction of Westbrook will build the facility. It's expected to open to the public in the spring or summer of 2026.

The facility was planned according to principles for sustainable federal buildings crafted by the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Environmental Quality, a division of the Executive Office of the President. Features include windows designed to prevent bird collisions.

The center will feature exhibits showcasing the conservation efforts conducted by the Refuge and the Gulf of Maine Coastal Program and the life and contributions of Rachel Carson. 

Carson, who lived from 1907-64, began a 15-year career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1936 as an aquatic biologist. With the success of her second book, “The Sea Around Us,” she resigned from the service and bought a cottage on Southport Island.

She is best known for her 1962 book “Silent Spring,” which sounded the alarm about the potential biological consequences of chemical pesticides. 

The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1966 in cooperation with the state of Maine to protect salt marshes and estuaries for migratory birds. Located along 50 miles of coastline in York and Cumberland counties, the refuge consists of 11 divisions between Kittery and Cape Elizabeth and now stretches 50 miles along the coast.

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