Observatory Park's main campus officially opened in June 2012. Construction was funded by private contributions, 30 percent from sources outside Geauga County. Led by the Geauga Park District Foundation, the capital campaign concluded in November 2012 with a grand total of $2,167,452!
The final phase of the capital campaign for Observatory Park, Phase IV, is the restoration of the historic Nassau Astronomical Observing Station. The fundraising goal for Phase IV is $1,175,000. The "new" Nassau station will include:
green restrooms & solar panels
an elevator to make the telescope handicapped accessible
restoration of the Cleveland-made Warner & Swasey 36" Cassegrain telescope
a museum of the history of astronomy in Northeast Ohio on the main floor "dark room" beneath the telescope
educational space in the former living quarters
adequate parking and entrance drive
construction of a trail linking the Nassau station with Observatory Park's main campus
It is widely recognized that nearly all of today's scientists, professional and amateur alike, were inspired by a curiosity ignited when they were young.
The Nassau Astronomical Observing Station is an investment in both formal and informal, high-quality science education to support the next generation of science professionals who will be working in an environmentally at-risk world.
Employment of physicists and astronomers is expected to grow by 14 percent from 2010-20, as fast as the average for all occupations. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Physicists and astronomers study the fundamental nature of the universe, ranging from the vastness of space to the smallest of subatomic particles. They develop new technologies, methods and theories based on the results of their research that deepen our understanding of how things work and contribute to innovative, real-world applications.
The work of these scientists leads to advances in areas such as energy, electronics, communications, navigation and medical technology. We now not only have an international space spation, but we use lasers in surgery and microwave technology in most kitchens.
Student training at the Nassau station will revolve around the mathematical, analytical and critical thinking skills essential for the development of the physicists and astronomers of tomorrow.
Restoring the Nassau Astronomical Observing Station, as well as repurposing the 36" Warner & Swasey telescope for use in public education and student research, will allow Geauga Park District and our education partners to:
Continue the legacy of astronomy research and education for the general public begun by Dr. Jason Nassau and Case Western Reserve University and lost to Cleveland residents with the demise and decay of the Warner & Swasey Observatory on Taylor Road once its dark sky was eliminated.
Preserve the history of scientific innovation in manufacturing in Northeast Ohio as embodied in the work of the Warner & Swasey Company and the passion of its founders, Worcester Warner and Ambrose Swasey.
Inspire young scientists by introducing thousands of Cleveland-area students and adults to the thrill of scientific learning and discovery as well as the natural wonders found in deep space.
Offer new programs and science research opportunities to underserved populations of middle, high school and college age young people from across Northeast Ohio.
Provide professional development and training for adults and educators in the sciences of geology, meteorology and astronomy.
Click here to read more about what makes the Nassau station experience special.
The Nassau station sits at 1,250 feet above sea level, and was described at the groundbreading in 1956 as the highest spot in Northeast Ohio.Original costs, exclusive of land, were approximately $300,000.
Its rotating dome is 17 feet high and 28 feet in diameter.
The Nassau station opened in 1957. Its original telescope came from the Warner & Swasey Observatory, located on
Taylor Road in East Cleveland. At Nassau, its effectiveness was said to have tripled; the
clarity of the sky was greater, and the number of nights on
which observations were possible increased.
At the time this station was used for research, it was used to study the Milky Way galaxy and galactic structure.
Jason J. Nassau, professor of astronomy and director of the
observatory, was born in 1892. He began teaching at
Case as assistant professor of astronomy and mathematics in
1921, was appointed director of the Warner and Swasey
Observatory in 1928, and served in that position until 1959. In 1930, he
also became professor of astronomy and head of the department. Nassau retired in 1962, becoming professor emeritus of
astronomy, and died in 1965.
In 1979, light pollution forced the move of the original telescope to Kitt Peak
National Observatory, Arizona.
In 1980, the current 36" Cassegrain telescope was moved from the Warner & Swasey Observatory to Nassau station. This telescope had been used primarily for educational purposes, as it was more suitable for visual observing and public demonstration. The optical design, or speed, of the 36-inch reflector also made it less sensitive to light pollution.
The Nassau station and Cassegrain telescope were sold to Geauga Park District in 2008. Click here for the original press release.
With Geauga Park District's Nassau Astronomical Observing Station as a backdrop on August 27, representatives from the Cleveland Foundation announced gifts totaling $200,000 toward restoring the historic building for public use.
The Lake-Geauga Fund of the Cleveland Foundation made an initial gift of $100,000, its first centennial grant in honor of the Foundation’s 100th anniversary in 2014.
Impressed by the regional impact of the project, the Cleveland Foundation’s board of directors then matched that grant.
“A key goal of the Cleveland Foundation’s special centennial grants is to fund projects that will positively impact our community for the next 100 years, and restoring and preserving Nassau station definitely meets that objective,” said Robert E. Eckardt, executive vice president of the Cleveland Foundation. “The Cleveland Foundation has a long history of supporting green spaces throughout Northeast Ohio, and we are proud to be able to play a leadership role in protecting a park that is such a treasure to the Geauga community and to our region."
These two gifts launch the public phase of the capital campaign for Observatory Park Phase IV, which focuses on the restoration of the historic Nassau Astronomical Observing Station.
About $590,000, or half of goal, has been raised since February, said Paula Aveni, capital campaign chairperson.
The Cleveland Foundation has a long history of support for the Nassau station, formerly of Case Western Reserve University, which was sold to the Park District in 2008. Fifty-six years ago, it provided funding to build the observatory.
"It's really wonderful to close the loop and have them back with us tonight," Aveni said. "Over the years the Nassau station has helped thousands of scientists, teachers and students see the heavens from a different perspective, and it's wonderful to know that that opportunity is going to be available to teachers and students for generations to come."
The award-winning documentary on preserving the night sky, The City Dark: A Search for Night on a Planet That Never Sleeps, is available for loan free of charge. Click here to view the film's trailer. To check out a copy to show your family, friends or next club meeting, call Emilie Gottsegen at 440-279-0835.
School programs have been very popular at Observatory Park. Since the park opened in June 2012, school programs and trainings have been attended by Mayfield and Orville high schools, Kenston Middle School, Hershey Montessori School, Geauga Science Olympiad teams, Ledgemont Hight School's Envirothon team, Hiram College, John Carroll University, Cleveland Metroparks and Lake and Geauga science teachers attending the Northeastern Ohio Education Association training day.
Mayfield students say "thanks" to Observatory Park donors
Tucked away on Clay Street in rural Montville Township amidst farm fields is Geauga Park District's newest crown jewel, an International Dark Sky Park, which has the potential to expand eco-tourism and take education to a whole new level. You cannot see the facilities from the road, but once you follow the half-mile-long driveway back, what comes into view gives the essence of going "back to the future."
Photo: MirAnia Photography
Once a source of wonder – and one half of the entire planet's natural environment – our star-filled nights are largely unexplored by most of us and quickly vanishing in a yellow haze.Our lost connection with the stars and the night sky blinds us to one of the most splendid wonders in the universe. Adults who are unaware and children who grow up without the experience of a starry night miss invaluable opportunities to speculate about larger questions and to learn about the environment and larger world.
What People Are Saying
Here's just a sampling of people excited about Observatory Park and the Nassau station. For more, visit Observatory Park's webpage and click Why We Love It.
“There is nothing in the world which can compare to Observatory Park.” – Terry K. McGowan at the Phase II groundbreaking ceremony, officially presenting the
International Dark-Sky Association’s Provisional Silver-Tier Dark Sky Park certificate to Geauga Park
District (Terry chairs the IDA Technical Task Force and serves on the IDA Education Task Force)
"It is always exciting to be on the ground floor of a new program. Deciding how best to use this gift is an interesting process. As an educator, it is challenging to create a curriculum to serve school age children and appeal to the general public as well. Fine tuning the field experiences, making lists of equipment, and designing activities that can be self-directed were among the tasks that the EAC faced during the process. Working within time and financial constraints are not new to educators in the public school setting, however, brainstorming ideas that need to take into consideration night vs. day and weather conditions adds a new dimension to the mix. As an amateur astronomer it is a conundrum as to what one does in the daylight hours. I feel that the EAC has accomplished much in the last two years. After piloting the astronomy lessons last spring, I feel we have made a major contribution to Observatory Park. It is thrilling to see students' enthusiasm as they participate in the activities we created for the first park dedicated to observing beauty of the heavens." – Stephanie Boles, Sixth Grade Science Teacher at Cardinal Middle School in Middlefield, who served on the Educators Advisory Council
"Observatory Park is a wonderful learning environment for children and adults alike. It is unique in that it offers an experience that goes well beyond a nature walk in the park. I was very happy to have been a part of the curriculum writing and piloting efforts of the project. Seeing the park develop through its infancy stages into its final form has been a delight. I am especially pleased to see the final product as the exact culmination of the combined efforts of many professionals working together to create an incredible hands-on facility. Love it!" – Christopher Kostiha, Berkshire Local School District, who served on the Educators Advisory Council
“It was immediately clear to me when Tom Curtin presented the potential impact on the
community of an astronomy and science park that The Hershey Foundation needed to take a
very early leadership stance. I knew that without private funding, Observatory Park could not
become a reality and this fantastic education opportunity would have been missed. It is
extremely gratifying to see so many individual and foundation leadership gifts to the capital
campaign since our decision to invest in Observatory Park and set the example for other
funders.” – Debra Hershey Guren, President and CEO, The Hershey Foundation (pictured above)
“Observatory Park is not about buildings. The heart of Observatory Park is the education
opportunity it will provide for students and adults throughout Geauga County and beyond,
unequalled anywhere in the world. Those who participate in supporting the creation of
Observatory Park will leave an unparalleled education legacy.” – William D. Ginn, Honorary Chair, Observatory Park Capital Campaign (pictured above)
“It’s great to have a park of this caliber only 15 minutes from the Geauga Campus. I look forward to taking my students there to help them better grasp astronomy. There aren’t that many areas where the sky is even clear enough for the stars to be studied, that’s why the opening of this park is a big deal.” – Dan Rothstein, Department of Physics, Kent State University (article here)
“This ambitious effort combines multiple fields of the physical sciences in ways
complementary to those of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The Park District staff
and technical advisory teams have shown thoughtful planning and attention to an impressive
range of details, especially in regard to the proposed astronomical facilities, exhibits and
programs. Particularly impressive is the designation of the park as a certified International
Dark Sky Park. Our museum curators and astronomy staff have a long tradition of collaboration with
Geauga Park District, and the Observatory Park initiative will serve to strengthen that
partnership. We see a wide range of opportunities to develop joint interpretive and thematic
programming. We're also encouraged by the depth of support for the project from other
regional scientific and educational institutions, and are very much looking forward to actively
participating in this unique concept.” – Dr. Evalyn Gates, Executive Director and CEO of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, in a letter of
support to accompany grant proposals submitted by Geauga Park District for the Observatory Park
“I enthusiastically support the efforts of
the Park District staff and technical advisory teams and the personal attention shown in
planning an impressive range of details, especially in regard to the proposed astronomical
facilities, exhibits and programs.
The Science Center looks forward to the opportunity of working in collaboration with Geauga
Park District in developing joint educational programs for the project, and is privileged to
partner with an organization like Geauga Park District. This project will truly be an
investment that will have a lasting impact on science and environmental education for many
years to come.” – Linda Abraham Silver, Ed.D., President and CEO of the Great Lakes Science Center, in a letter of support to
accompany grant proposals submitted by Geauga Park District for the Observatory Park capital
“Geauga Park District’s Observatory Park is emerging as one of the nation’s premier public
parks and a unique wonder unto itself. As a regional destination site, Observatory Park will
provide a plethora of advanced education, research, discovery and pure entertainment for
all. I am proud and honored to be associated with this exciting project for the region and for
its future global connectivity. Its impactful presence will be monumental and admired for
decades to come.“ – Richard J. Frenchie, MBA, FACHE, Geauga Park District Foundation President and Observatory Park
“Observatory Park is not about buildings. The heart of Observatory Park is the education
opportunity it will provide for students and adults in Geauga County and beyond,
unequalled anywhere in the world. Those who participate in supporting the creation of
Observatory Park will leave an unparalleled education legacy.” – William D. Ginn,
Thank you to the following partners and contributors, who carried the Observatory Park Capital Campaign to $2,167,452. Observatory Park would not have been possible without your support.
Richard J. Frenchie, FACHE
Observatory Park Campaign Chair
Click here for a complete list of Observatory Park donors and Nassau donors as of March 31, 2013.
A father gives his son a new view of the heavens during the park's dedication in 2011.
Notre Dame Elementary fourth-graders presented a check for $525 to the campaign on May 24, 2012. Gifts from fourth-grade classes of 2009-12 bring their cumulative total to $1,945 – enough to sponsor a telescope pad at the park.
In the News
Here's just a sampling of media outlets excited about Observatory Park and the Nassau station.
And on June 16, 2012, more than 760 also came out to celebrate the park's grand opening, walked the completed Planetary and Weather trails, and enjoyed costumed interpreters, naturalist-led planetarium shows and refreshments. Click here for event photos.
The coveted International Dark Sky Park designation carries with it a long-term commitment by Geauga Park District to provide educational opportunities on the adverse effects of light pollution and to assist communities in adopting dark sky-friendly lighting ordinances. We are working with many partners in implementing outreach plans for the park.
The mission of Geauga Park District is to preserve, conserve and protect the natural features of Geauga County and to provide the opportunity for people to enjoy and appreciate those resources. • 9160 Robinson Road • Chardon, Ohio 44024 • Phone (440) 286-9516 • firstname.lastname@example.org