$5 Million Campaign Announced for Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory


(Rendering courtesy of Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory)

Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory (SNCO) just announced a five-year, $5 million comprehensive fundraising campaign to expand and update the current facilities. “Sunriver has undergone a renaissance, with increased visitor numbers and programs. As we celebrate our 50th Anniversary, it’s time for SNCO to create a campus that will serve our community as the hub of environmental learning in Central Oregon for the next 50 years,” noted Dave Buhaly, Board President of SNCO.

The campus expansion calls for a 7,700 square foot Discovery Center that will house permanent and special exhibits and provide for six animal enclosures, offering both interior and exterior viewing. The Earth and Sky theater will house full planetarium projection system capabilities as well as allow for traditional presentation of nature films, guest lectures, and seating for up to 94 visitors. In addition to the Discovery Center, an 1,800 square foot pavilion will be constructed on the bank of Lake Aspen to serve as an outdoor education space in support of the nearly 5,000 K-12 students that visit the eight-acre campus annually.

“We have outgrown our existing facilities for both the nature center and observatory,” explains Marv Henberg, Comprehensive Campaign Committee Chair. “The current nature center building cannot accommodate the nearly five times the number of visitors it was originally planned for. There is no space for rotating or traveling exhibits that speak to the contemporary concerns or themes,” he said. “Often, collections cannot be displayed because of lack of space. Attendance at the Oregon Observatory now overflows the parking lot and in peak season, guests are waiting sometimes over 30 minutes to access a telescope. It’s time.”

The Oregon Observatory features the largest array of telescopes available for public viewing in the United States. As many as 350 visitors a night, in peak season, have the opportunity for up-close views of our stars and solar system. An expansion will be added to the current observatory to accommodate the growing capacity. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

Conceptual design was led by Steele Associates Architects, LLC of Bend. The firm previously designed the expansion plans for the Oregon Observatory.

Founded in 1968, SNCO has spent the last 50 years fostering the dream of principal founder, John Gray, who sought to combine environmental stewardship and education with design excellence. “This expansion will allow us to further the vision of Mr. Gray and his family” said Abby Rowland, Director of Philanthropy. Rowland was pleased to add that the quiet phase of the comprehensive campaign is near $1.2 million. “Philanthropy is essential to the success of this project.”

Sunriver Nature Center and Observatory is a nonprofit organization completely funded by donations from individuals and corporations, private foundations, admissions, proceeds from the Second Tern Thrift Store and a program services provided. “Many people don’t realize that we are a completely separate organization from Sunriver Resort and Sunriver Owners Association and don’t receive state or federal funds,” said Henberg.

For more information on giving and naming opportunities, please contact Abby Rowland at 541-797-9483 or abby@sunrivernaturecenter.org.

Since its founding in 1968, the non-profit Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory has provided a wide array of environmental and astronomy programs, events, and exhibits for residents and visitors. The Observatory offers the largest number of telescopes for public viewing in the United States. More information is available at www.SunriverNatureCenter.org and www.OregonObservatory.org.


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