Larouche Family Legacy
...The wire spring and slam of the screen door. The sounds of linoleum under your feet. Rain on the tar paper roof, while you’re lying in bed. The smell of hay scented fern. The Eastern Wood Pewee’s plaintive song. Chipmunks eating seeds on the path to the outhouse. Perch chowder and fried horn pout, pickerel, and bass. Hot fluffy French bread. Diving off the wharf. Catching fireflies and pickerel minnows in a jar. Whippoorwills, “Hoot Owls,” bats, evening laughter and campfire stories, and cheating at cribbage...
The beginnings of Hirundo can be found in the memories of these sight, sounds, smells, and tastes. One month of heaven every August at the camp, Twin’s Nest, where all the Larouche sons and their families rendezvoused, matching their wits and prowess, as raconteurs, pranksters, fishermen, canoeists, and swimmers.
In 1932, the Larouche Family, of Milo, ME, bought a hunter’s cabin along with 3 acres of woods on Pushaw Stream for the large active family to enjoy all the natural resources that area had to offer. So impressed by these experiences, the sons of Leontine and J. Charles Larouche started to acquire surrounding land.
Hirundo Wildlife Refuge was founded in 1965 by Oliver Larouche. He was able to expand the original 3-acre family camp to the present 2,460-acre refuge with a generous endowment from Parker Reed. The refuge was established as a “haven for wildlife in which to grow and be protected, an area in which they can live and survive.” By planting fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, he increased habitat diversity to improve wildlife diversity.
In 1983 Oliver and his wife, June Larouche, deeded the Hirundo land to the University of Maine, cementing a long-term collaboration. Oliver and June funded research on fish, birds, and mammals, transforming Hirundo into a living laboratory for the University. After naming the refuge Hirundo-- the Latin word for swallow-- he lined the open fields with scores of nest boxes for Tree Swallows. Along Pushaw Stream, he installed Wood Duck nest boxes.
At Hirundo, the public is encouraged to accept “Nature on its own terms.” The Larouche family guides the Hirundo Board of Trustees to maintain that acceptance as a central theme in all endeavors and keep Oliver Larouche’s land legacy available for public enjoyment and education.
In 2016, the Larouche family was the winner of Natural Resource Council (NRCM) of Maine's 2016 People’s Choice Award. The winner is selected based on votes submitted by the public to the NRCM. Stephanie Larouche, current chair of the Board, accepted the award at a reception in South Portland on September 14, 2015. Other NRCM honorees that year included the Penobscot River Restoration Project and the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument. This was a wonderful honor for Hirundo.
Hirundo Wildlife Refuge is honored that the citizens of Maine chose to recognize the founding family's commitment to the refuge, as they have remained intimately involved, even after four generations.