ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — Nearly a decade after taking over a former Navy property at Schoodic Point, Acadia officials and supporters on Wednesday plan to celebrate the transition of the facility into a more public-friendly research site.

A grand opening of the renovated campus, now known as Schoodic Education and Research Center, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24, outside SERC’s Moore Auditorium. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Barbara Mikulski are expected to attend, as are other federal and National Park Service officials. Tours of the renovated campus and facilities will be held from 3 to 5 p.m.

Intermittent work on the 100-acre property has been happening since the Navy moved out in 2002. Acadia National Park, which owned all the land around the base, moved in, and by the end of 2006 had begun work renovating the former commissary into a meeting facility and a bowling alley into a bunkhouse for visiting school groups.

Work has progressed in earnest over the past two years, however, as Acadia has been able to secure $9.3 million in federal funds made available in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Park officials have said that, because of the federal stimulus money, they decided to concentrate roughly 10 years worth of projects into a two-year time frame.

Park officials indicated in a statement that, since 2002, it has invested nearly $18 million overall in converting the former military base into SERC.

John Kelly, Acadia’s park planner, said Tuesday that in the past two years, some buildings have been renovated to create functional space for SERC’s educational and research programs. A former medical building has been converted into lab space, and a movie theater has been converted to include studio space for the park’s artist-in-resident program, he said. What was a chapel has been renovated to include classroom space and computer labs and the former Schooner Club is now SERC’s Schooner Commons dining facility.

Other buildings, such as garages, an administration building, a gymnasium and a barracks have been removed altogether, mainly because the cost of converting them to public civilian use was too great, according to Kelly.

In conjunction with the work on buildings, paved surfaces have been removed, parking areas have been combined and more pedestrian and cycling paths have been created. The park also has replaced outdoor lighting to make it night sky friendly and to eliminate light pollution, according to Kelly.

With the extensive renovations, the park has made the facility more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, Kelly said. It also is in a position to more vigorously pursue the vision it had for the facility when it took it over nine years ago.

“We can now focus on programs, activities, and research partnerships,” Kelly said.

Scientific research in the park, professional development for teachers and educational opportunities for students are among the main programs offered at SERC, Acadia officials have said.

Despite the completed projects, Kelly said, there is more work to do. The campus’ Rockefeller Building, which was built in 1935, still needs to be renovated before it can be used effectively as a welcome and registration center.

Kelly said that project involves opening up more of the space on the first floor of the Rockefeller Building and is expected to cost $2 million. Philanthropist Edith Robb Dixon has pledged $1 million toward that project, while the park is expected to come up with most of the rest of the needed money through user fees, the planner said.

The upstairs portions of the building will continue to be used as residential apartments and offices, Kelly said. Other cabins and residential buildings at SERC also are expected to be renovated further as funds become available, he said.

From noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, an open house will be held at SERC. The event will include tours, children’s activities, and a cookout provided by Hannaford, all of which are free and open to the public. More information is available by calling 288-1310.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....