Ecology Center

Preserve Closed Temporarily – Effective April 6, 2020

Cathance River Nature Preserve has been temporarily closed at the request of the landowner due to concerns around recent increased use and safety related to COVID-19. Highland Green initiated this closure to protect residents within the community who are deemed at high risk. 

This closure comes with a heavy heart, as we believe the natural world provides solace, a place for healthy activity, and a welcome respite from the current concerns so distressing to everyone. We are particularly saddened for those who lack ready access to nature. We look forward to reopening the Cathance River Nature Preserve trails as soon as possible.

Many preserves in the area remain open with a caution to practice responsible social distancing. Check the websites of Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, and Freeport Conservation Trust for information about other local trails while the Preserve is temporarily closed.

When the Preserve re-opens, the Ecology Center will be open to the public every Sunday from 12 – 2 PM.

When the Preserve re-opens, the Cathance River Nature Preserve and Trails will be open to the public every day from dawn to dusk.

When the Preserve re-opens, the CREA Ecology Center will be open to the public every Sunday from 12-2 PM. Come visit! We have an impressive array of native Maine mammals and birds on display and a nice collection of Maine minerals. The answers to many of your natural history questions can be answered within our extensive library. And, feel free to check out the features that make the Ecology Center so sustainable – solar panels and batteries, solar heater, wood pellet stove, and more! Our knowledgeable volunteers are available to guide you through our off-grid facility, provide trail maps and suggested hikes on the Preserve, and answer questions.

In the winter months, snowshoes are available to loan during the Sunday open house hours to explore the Preserve trails. Youth and Adult sizes are available on a first come first serve basis.

The Preserve is on privately-owned land that is protected by a conservation easement. Please respect the landowner’s prohibition on pets, hunting, camping, fires, biking, and motorized vehicles at the Preserve.

Please “leave no trace” of your visit; stay on the marked trails; pick up any trash; pack out everything you pack in; return any logs or rocks to their original location. Please do not remove items from the preserve. Thank you and enjoy your visit!

Ecology Center Beginnings

Construction began on the Cathance River Ecology Center in September 2005. Groundbreaking was celebrated with a dedication to CREA co-founders John Rensenbrink and John Wasileski.

We are forever grateful to the following donors who made this project a reality:

  • John Wasileski (Developer of Highland Green) who donated the frame of an antique 24′ x 36′ post and beam barn;
  • Harry C. Crooker and Sons Inc. of Topsham (site work);
  • Day’s Concrete of Monmouth (foundation); and
  • Hancock Lumber (building materials).

We are equally grateful to the following organizations that made construction of the Ecology Center possible with significant gifts:

  • State Farm Insurance
  • The Alfred M. Senter Fund
  • Davis Conservation Fund
  • Merrymeeting Bay Trust
  • Highland Green

Learn about the ecology center’s “green” features as well as its use and story.


On September 28, 2006 The Cathance River Ecology Center celebrated the completion of the construction project with an open house. The ecology center boasts a 24′ x 24′ multipurpose meeting room using unique “Green” features including:

  • A recycled antique barn which was transported from New York
  • Forest Stewardship Council approved lumber
  • A rooftop photo voltaic system with 16 panels and 750 amp production rate. Our 12 battery storage capacity provides for the Ecology Center’s “off grid” electrical needs.
  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified “cotton batten” insulation made from 80% recycled jeans
  • Energy Star Marvin Integrity windows from Hancock Lumber
  • Eco-friendly American clay product for finished walls
  • The heating system is an efficient bio mass wood pellet stove (this unit has the lowest emissions rating in EPA history)
  • Installation of a rain gutter/barrel to provide a water source for classroom use
  • Outside ramp is made from TREX lumber, a product manufactured from recycled plastic and wood fibers
  • The Energy Star rated compact fluorescent lighting is used to light the center.
  • Our chairs are made of recycled plastic and metal.
  • Wind turbine that produces 200 watts of energy
  • Solar thermal sheet produces 5000 BTUs
  • Weather station helps gauge our solar radiation amounts