Ecology Center

Preserve Is Partially Open – please read details here.


CREA’s Ecology Center is located at the 230-acre Cathance River Nature Preserve in Topsham. Learn more about CREA’s beginnings and its relationship to the Preserve here.

The Cathance River Nature Preserve and most trails are open to the public every day from dawn to dusk.

The CREA Ecology Center hosts open house hours every Sunday from 12-2 PM. We have lots to browse through and some child-friendly activities to do on-site or take with you. Families will be allowed in the building one at a time (masks required for children under 12). 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 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

Ecology Center’s Sustainability Features

Learn about the ecology center’s “green” features, its story, and current use in the following video.

Learn more about the Ecology Center’s green features here. Green features include:

  • Eight solar panels producing 1.4 kilowatts, with 16 batteries for storage
  • Chairs made of recycled plastic and metal
  • Entrance ramp made of TREX wood (recycled plastic and wood)
  • LEED-certified cotton batt insulation
  • Exterior thermal blanket 
  • Wind turbine
  • Weather station to gauge solar radiation
  • Energy Star-certified compact fluorescent lighting
  • Forest Sustainability Council (FSC)-certified wood
  • Biomass wood pellet stove (low emission)