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Joyce Endee

Expanded Loon Center now open



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The newly expanded Loon Center. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
July 29, 2021
MOULTONBOROUGH The Loon Center started its new season with a big expansion and a new building for equipment and housing field staff thanks to $2.1 million in donations.

Construction is complete on the new addition to the Loon Center and the new Kittie and John Wilson Field Operations Center.

The Loon Center was built in 1993 for a staff of around four people. Loon Preservation Committee executive director Harry Vogel said the space was adequate for the LPC's needs at the time. Almost 30 years later, the staff has almost quadrupled and Vogel said the challenges to loons have significantly increased as well requiring a lot more equipment and space.

"We realized our facilities needed to expand to help keep pace with our mission," Vogel said.

The LPC formed a building committee and started a fundraising campaign for an expanded facility and a new field operations center.

More than $2.1 million was raised for the project from 673 donors, which Vogel said went over their original $2 million goal.

Construction started around September or October of 2020. Material and labor costs increased, but Vogel said it was a quick process and Conneston Construction, Inc. was great to work with.

He said as the process started an engineer told them they were already close to being an energy neutral building. They decided to go further with the expansion and have more opportunities for energy efficiency and renewable energy. He said reducing the use of fossil fuels goes hand in hand with the LPC's work to protect loons and other forms of wildlife.

"We decided we need to live the mission and reduce all of our emissions as much as possible," Vogel said.

Another layer of insulation was installed around the building solar panels were put on the roof of the main building and the field operations center. Lights were replaced with LED and an energy efficient heating system as installed. The system pulls in up to -20 degrees from the air and keeps the building warm in winter and cold in summer.

The addition to the current building creates vastly more space for the LPC's daily and programming needs including more office space, much needed storage space, and space for infrastructure.

The main meeting room and education center is being expanded.

The addition added more space to the shop and one of the offices can be used to process new shipments.

Vogel's old office is now a storage area with climate and humidity control. He said before the envelopes would seal themselves. The storage area also houses internet and networking equipment, which used to be crammed in an office.

"We had a lack of dedicated storage space for all these things you need to run an organization," Vogel said.

Before, the only way to access the upper and lower floors was a narrow staircase, which Vogel said was a problem for seniors during events and a hassle to move merchandise up and down. The building now has a new lift that goes between the upper and lower floors.

The downstairs area has been expanded with more storage space and an expanded program room.

There is now a dedicated library and research room that contains paperwork and research from the past 46 years. Vogel said much of their research is digitalized, but they still have a lot of materials from the LPC's history. The room is also ideal for the LPC's board meetings instead of taking up another meeting room.

"We're constantly reminded of the proud history of this organization and the work that people have done before us," Vogel said.

Before the expansion, the building had one kitchen that was crammed from use by events, meetings, and staff members. There is now a kitchen in the lower level that offers more space.

The center's lab space also expanded. Meadow Pond Animal Hospital donated a veterinary table used to perform necropsies on dead loons. There are also impermeable countertops, a centrifuge for blood samples, and a walk-in freezer to store specimens. This space is ideal for a veterinary pathologist and intern.

They are also working to get a potable x-ray machine they can use in the office and in the field to help injured loons. Right now, the LPC depends on a group of veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitation experts for that equipment.

"This will definitely improve our ability to give good and effective care to these loons," Vogel said.

There is also a dedicated storage room for specimens and samples.

The parking lot was raised and there are now charging stations for electric vehicles.

The project constructed the new Kittie and John Wilson Field Operations Center named after two longtime supporters of the LPC.

The lower level stores the LPC's boats and equipment including nesting rafts, signs, tools, and more. Vogel said they now have indoor space to store and work on equipment, whereas everything was outside subject to the elements. There was a volunteer raft building day that was rained out which won't happen with the new space.

Upstairs is housing for seasonal field biologists. Vogel said biologists and interns were previously housed in cabins by the lake about half a mile away from the LPC with no running water or electricity. The distance was also a problem if there was a sudden report of a loon in need of immediate care.

Now there are four bedrooms that house two or three people at once. The space also includes a few bathrooms, a kitchen, living area, and patio.

"I've been ion a lot of field stations, this is the nicest one I've been to," Vogel said.

Furniture for the new space arrived the day before the biologists came to the center.

He said they hope the new space will meet their needs for the next 20 or 30 years.

"It feels great and it's a huge relief to have it done," Vogel said.

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