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Closer to the Stars

Analemma Society prepares to raise more funds for observatory park at Turner Farm.

For Charles Olin, founder and president of the Analemma Society, the sky is the limit for this weekend's Analemma fund-raiser.

"We'd like to raise as much as we can get," said Olin, who lives in Great Falls. "There is no limit on what we would like to go for."

The fund-raiser will take place on Saturday, March 18, at 12:30 p.m. at L'Auberge Chez Francois, located at 332 Springvale Road in Great Falls.

Courtney Dressing, a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, will be speaking at the event. There will also be an auction for the purpose of raising money. Olin is hoping to acquire more funds for the design phase of the observatory park that is planned for Turner Farm Park in Great Falls.

"We are trying to get a design for a rolltop observatory building that will house four telescopes permanently," said Olin. "So when the public comes on Friday nights, they can just roll back the roof and use the telescopes."

On Feb. 6, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors awarded a $189,542 contract to Technology Worx, LLC of Ashburn to design the observatory park. In addition to the observatory, the contract also includes the design for traditional park amenities such as a picnic shelter, parking, landscaping, a croquet court and a running track.

The 52-acre park is made up of land which formerly belonged to the Defense Mapping Agency, Lexington Estates and Turner Farm. Technology Worx will come up with three design concepts over the course of the next four months.

"The design has to be selected and approved," said Olin. "Then the separate funding has to come along."

IN ADDITION to the rolltop observatory, Olin says there are plans for an education building.

"We would have a number of items, a museum of the history of telling time and location, a sky orientation building similar to a planetarium, a large lecture hall where we can have guest speakers, and classrooms and rooms to make telescopes and sundials," said Olin.

Turner Farm Park also has a cross-country equestrian course planned for development. This was recently awarded funding from the Fairfax County Park Authority's Mastenbrook Volunteer Matching Fund program. This $9,000 grant is being matched by funds from Brogue Charities, Inc. The course will consist of 20 jump stations, which will be appropriate for use by novice riders.

Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois says that she is pleased that the "community's long-held dream for Turner Farm Park is moving toward a reality."

"I look forward to participating with all the public and private groups who will take this design to the final construction," said DuBois.

According to the parks public information officer, Judy Pedersen, the various design phases will last into the rest of the year.

"We don't anticipate any sort of groundbreaking until well into 2007," said Pedersen.

Pedersen says that Turner Farm Park is currently in the project information review phase. The next step will be the concept design phase, followed by the schematic design phase.

"There will be another phase as they begin to design the roll top building for the observatory, and that should start in September," said Pedersen. "Really all we have right now is design money, but we anticipate some kind of cost sharing with the Analemma Society."