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Votes

Analemma Society Seeks Support from GFCA

Observatory Park educational building will cost $1.7 billion

During the latest executive board meeting of the Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) on July 6, members heard from a representative of the Analemma Society, which is seeking the organization’s support in asking for nearly $2 million in park bond money from Fairfax County. The GFCA has not made a decision on whether to extend support but according to its president, David Olin, “is giving it serious consideration before deciding.”

The Analemma Society is the entity in charge of creating Observatory Park at Turner Farm. Observatory Park will be a scientific building dedicated to the history and culture of astronomy. The park is currently open on Friday evenings to stargazing, but the existing buildings on the property are not suitable for public use. The Analemma Society has plans to create working and interactive structures on the property that utilize the latest technology to instruct children and adults in astrological sciences.

One of the most crucial steps in that plan is the development of an educational building. The Analemma Society is asking for $1.7 million from the Park Authority for the educational building. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently raised the proposed amount of the Park Bond from $50 million to $65 million. In November residents will vote on the bond.

Bob Beamer appeared before the GFCA well in advance of the vote to get the Executive Board thinking about whether to support the Analemma Society’s request. For the group to support the amount requested, a general meeting open to all members of the GFCA would need to be held.

IT WAS DETERMINED that the Sept. 14 meeting, the next one scheduled after the summer, will be about the Park Bond. There are several other projects in Great Falls that are competing for the bond money.

Olin, who is related to two members of the Analemma Society’s board, asked for the meeting, where the level of support within the community for these projects can be fleshed out.

Beamer explained that having an educational building in the Park will “be something tangible for the community,” to see after many years where the land known as Nike Park sat vacant and abandoned. Beamer said, “It will be a place where there’s an opportunity for kids to do real science.” He added, “A second major element is there are members here in the community with expertise who just don’t know how to hook in” to the Park.

The educational building will have a footprint of 11,600 square feet. The roof of the building is designed to be flat, allowing for night gazing. The Park Authority has all the documents and plans relating to the building.

Beamer did offer a few surprises about how Observatory Park could be used by the community. An expansive landscaped sundial garden is planed for the grounds. “It could be a place for receptions because of the size. It can accommodate large groups,” said Beamer.

He also suggested that Observatory Park could become a source of revenue for the community in the future. “That would put off some of the cost. I assume and hope it would be within reason,” said Beamer. “The dividends it can return to the community would be incalculable.”

AFTER HEARING ABOUT the possibility of wedding and party receptions being held at Observatory Park, Eleanor Anderson of GFCA asked, “I’m wondering if you’ve given any attention to the traffic. There is a real concern about this, and this is a draw.” Beamer gave assurances that traffic along Georgetown Pike and the other arteries in and out of Great Falls is “something we are very conscious about.”

New GFCA board member Lynn Kemmerer said, “They have some data. They’ve done a traffic count. They have thought this through.”

A big consideration for the GFCA board is which projects it will support for the limited bond money and how much funding it will support. “What we need to consider as a board, is if these are the only people who will come asking,” said Eleanor Weck. She added, “If we could shoot for the sky, it sounds good to me.”

Olin said, “It’s an amazing potential that we stand to lose if we don’t go forward.” He tempered that by saying, “I don’t know if we are really there in terms of supporting it. We entertained one person. The direction that we are going in is that we are going to give it serious consideration.”