Story last updated at 11:50 a.m. Thursday, May 2, 2002

Ground to break on Marine Center
by Carey James
Staff Writer

After more than a decade of planning, groundwork is set to begin Monday on the Marine Center, an education, research and visitor facility to be built on the Sterling Highway across from the Petro Express Tesoro station.

Before equipment rolls, the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve will hold a pre-groundbreaking flora rescue from the building site on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. Native plant expert Toby Tyler will be on hand to help people with transplanting information and other questions. Transplanters should bring their own bags and shovels, but help will be on hand to point folks in the right direction.

By next week, however, crews will begin working on the land, removing the mostly dead forest next to the highway to make way for the building. While construction is underway, the upper end of the Beluga Slough Trail will be closed.

"It's thrilling that it's finally happening," said refuge spokeswoman Poppy Benson. "It took so many people over the course of 13 years of pecking away at it to make it happen."

Initial work will include landscaping and other ground work on the property, she said. Bob Brant of Jay-Brant General Contractors, a Homer firm, will oversee the project, with help from many local sub-contractors including Puffin Electric and Seabright Surveying as well as others. Longtime Homer resident Don Marlatt will be the project manager, assisted by Ken Castner and Jim Levine. Homer High School graduate Dan Cope will be the project engineer.

Later this summer, construction will begin on the 37,000-square-foot building that will eventually house a visitor center, auditorium, classrooms, research facilities and offices for the reserve and the refuge. Trails and a Veteran's Memorial sponsored by the American Legion Post will also be on the 60-acre site. The building is expected to open in the fall of 2003.