For the first time since the Cook Inlet Keeper began operations more than six years ago, its employees have windows with a real view and office doors that actually shut, and a lot more.
The Homer-based environmental organization is the beneficiary of a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist's dream. Ed Bailey, a longtime Homer-area resident, wanted to create a conservation center on Kachemak Bay. Now that's become a reality.
"Mr. Bailey has been someone who puts his money where his mouth is," said Bob Shavelson, director of Cook Inlet Keeper.
A few years ago, Bailey proposed the idea to the Keeper's board of directors. He and the group worked closely together to design the building near the Lakeside Mall in downtown Homer.
"He purchased the property and built the building," Shavelson said. "He continues to own it, but has made it very reasonable for us to be tenants here."
The Keeper shares space in the 2,400-square-foot structure with the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and Alaska Wild Animal Recovery Effort, or AWARE.
Designed into the building is a 500-square-foot laboratory space. Shavelson hopes one day to develop a first citizen-based, certified water-quality laboratory. It would be the first not only in Alaska, "but probably west of the Mississippi," he said.
Becoming certified means meeting rigorous state standards, but he said he believes reaching a high level of analytical sophistication is an achievable goal.
The space they have now has made performing Keeper functions a good deal easier and will make launching into new projects easier, as well.
"Everything our organization does comes down to water quality and habitat protection," Shavelson said.
Among the local issues on its table are the state of the Kenai Peninsula Borough landfill in Homer, thought to be polluting ground water, and the impact of all-terrain vehicles on wetlands and salmon streams.
Contacted at his home on the ridge behind Homer, Bailey said he is pleased with how the building came out. It's met his expectations so far.
"The whole idea is to have a center where we can dwell on the ecological integrity of Kachemak Bay," he said. "That's the legacy I'd like to leave."
The structure sits atop a knoll overlooking Beluga Lake with a panoramic view of the lake, parts of the bay and the mountains beyond. You also can look into parts of downtown.
"It's the visual connection with the bay and mountains; that's what ecology is all about," he said.
Erected next to the building are sun-tracking solar panels that supply much of the building's energy needs. Eventually, Bailey said, he wants to build a demonstration wind-power generator on the property. He also plans to do some landscaping and put up a routed wood sign on the curving drive leading to the building.
Bailey spent more than 30 years working for the federal government, including stints with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Parks Service before taking a job with the wildlife service where he spent the next 25 years. He retired in 1995.
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