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Updated: May 30, 2023

Wright-Ryan to lead construction of visitor center for Katahdin Region

aerial of buildings and woods Courtesy / Mir, Saunders Architecture A rendering shows the Saunders Architecture design of the visitor center.

Coinciding with the public launch of a $35 million fundraising campaign for Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, Wright-Ryan Construction in Portland said it was named construction manager for a Wabanaki-led  visitor contact station.

Led by Friends of Katahdin Woods & Waters, the fundraising campaign, called A Monumental Welcome, has three goals: providing funding for a visitor contact station, priority park projects and Wabanaki-directed projects. 

To date, $22.8 million has been raised. 

“Wright-Ryan has a 40-year history of working closely with community-based organizations throughout the region to assist in producing unique facilities in service to their mission,” said Wright-Ryan President John Ryan.

odd shaped wood building
Courtesy / Mir, Saunders Architecture
Construction of Tekαkαpimək is part of $35 million in projects in the works at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

The campaign will fund the Tekαkαpimək Contact Station at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. 

Funds will also support a new 3.6-mile access road to the site, an eastern lookout, a network of accessible paths and access routes, and state-of-the-art off-grid sustainability features.

Wabanaki homeland

Tekαkαpimək translates from the Penobscot language to “as far as one can see” and is pronounced “de gah-gah bee mook.”

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is located within the present and traditional homeland of the Penobscot Nation. The land and waters hold special significance to the Penobscot Nation and are inextricably linked with Penobscot culture, ceremonies, oral traditions, language, history and indigenous stewardship, continuing the respectful relationship with the land and waterways that has gone back more than 11,000 years. 

To the Wabanaki people, Katahdin is a culturally significant place where connecting watersheds provide important travel routes for the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot nations, which comprise the Wabanaki.

aerial of woods and river and hills
Courtesy / Mark Picard
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument was created in 2016 with the donation of 87,500 acres to the U.S.

Construction rights

Time-limited “reserved rights” were written into certain deeds of land allowing for Elliotsville Foundation Inc. to build a visitor contact station on Lookout Mountain in the monument. The foundation is partnering with a Wabanaki advisory board with representatives of the independent Nations that constitute the Wabanaki Confederacy.

In a news release, the advisory board collectively said it was “mutually committed to fostering a collaborative partnership” with the foundation in order to create the contact station “while developing a long-term relationship that will carry into the future.”

The contact station building is designed to encompass 7,896 square feet on two levels, with a capacity for 242 occupants. 

The project minimizes the use of steel and concrete, while maximizing the application of forest products and mass timber, including 165 custom-built structural laminated columns.

The building will be designed to operate as a thermal battery off the electrical power grid with mainly passive utilities — including a 36.75-kilowatt remote solar array for electrical service and a propane generator for backup. In addition to shading and ventilation design details, a thermal mass floor system will provide passive heating in cold months in conjunction with a type of passive solar structure called a trombe wall.

Regional impact

Tekαkαpimək is expected to contribute to the Katahdin region’s burgeoning four-season recreation economy and to support the ongoing revitalization of local communities. 

“This campaign provides immediate economic impact, with over 90% of construction expenditures here in Maine,” said Brian Hinrichs, executive director of Friends of Katahdin Woods & Waters.

Tekαkαpimək will feature artistry and exhibits created by Wabanaki artists and knowledge-keepers.

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument was created by Presidential Proclamation on Aug. 24, 2016. The 87,500 acres of land were donated to the United States by Burt’s Bees founder Roxanne Quimby to mark the centennial of the National Park Service.

In 2020, the monument was recognized for its dark skies and is the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary on the U.S. eastern seaboard.

Elliotsville Foundation leads the contact station project in consultation with the National Park Service and in close collaboration with a Wabanaki advisory board, Friends of Katahdin Woods & Waters, National Park Foundation and other stakeholders. 

Contractors include Wiphunakson LLC, Saunders Architecture, Alisberg Parker Architects, Atelier One, Haley Ward Inc., Reed Hilderbrand, Transsolar Inc., Allied Engineering Inc., Tuhura Communications, Jennifer Neptune (Penobscot), WeShouldDoItAll, Split Rock Studios, DCL, Emery Lee & Sons Inc., OBP Trailworks LLC, Maine Waterside Trails, Wright-Ryan Construction, Erin Hutton Projects, and Stern Consulting International.

The site is under construction and is expected to open by summer 2024.

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