Help Build a Home for Sunriver Observatory Telescopes


Last June Sunriver Nature Center and Observatory received two Newtonian telescopes valued at more than $50,000. The 30-inch and 20-inch telescopes will provide amazing views of phenomenons such as distant galaxies, stars and nebulas. Story by MATTHEW SJOGREN CBN Feature Writer

However, the observatory needs to construct two new buildings to house the telescopes, and as a result is currently raising $39,500 to cover the cost of the project.

In addition to the acquisition, the observatory opted to take on a new title and make multiple changes in its operations to help highlight that the newly named Oregon Observatory at Sunriver is now the largest public viewing area in the U.S.

Top-Notch Equipment

Observatory Manager Bob Grossfeld said the telescopes have two major advantages for their program: the newly acquired gear will spread out crowds who regularly pack the area, and most importantly, the Newtonians provide better technology. With a much larger aperture and field of view, users will have a clearer gaze at the night skies.

Grossfeld said that each telescope came from a different donor. The 30-inch came from leading amateur astronomer Corwin Matthews in Seattle. Matthews used the telescope at star parties throughout the Northwest, but it spent the majority of its time in storage and he wanted it to be used by the public. The donor of the 20-inch, Dennis Martin, is a member of the Night Sky 45 Club in Salem and decided that his telescope would be better used by the community in Sunriver.

The housing for the two pieces of stargazing paraphernalia will be state-of-the-art. Instead of the traditional storage units in which the roof rolls back to allow use of the telescope, the entire building will actually be rolled off, enabling the equipment to be both accessible and protected. The observatory would like to have the new buildings finished in time for summer programs. When completed, the structures will greatly add to the capacity for nightly programs.

A Nature Center with a History

Operations Manager Susan Briles provided some insight into the background of the Nature Center and Observatory. “We have been here since the beginning of Sunriver. The Nature Center was started to preserve the natural qualities of Sunriver itself, and was an integral part of forming Sunriver. The Nature Center was originally the organization that helped to make sure the resort was natural and everything was done with nature in mind. As the years went on we became more of a scientific and nature center…we have been functioning that way for many years.”

The involvement of the Nature Center with the roots of Sunriver resulted in a more environmentally-friendly community, and one example of this is the town’s strict light pollution control. This allows viewers at the observatory to see celestial objects that would otherwise be washed out in a larger city.

The organization was founded in 1968 and became a non-profit soon after. Grossfeld mentioned that perhaps the most important thing about the facility is the amount of volunteers that make it possible for operations. “Whether it’s working at the observatory or at the thrift store we have in Sunriver, we wouldn’t be able to run our programs without them,” he says.

Changes for the Observatory

The observatory has been educating people in Central Oregon for more than 40 years but has been lacking publicity in the local community. As a result, an aggressive marketing campaign is being launched to increase the awareness of this nonprofit science educational organization. The facilities will be renamed, doing business now as Sunriver Nature Center and Oregon Observatory at Sunriver.

Briles said, “We moved forward and changed names and logos and have new signage for the property and new uniforms and retail items, but still will remain largely the same 501(c). We are now the largest public viewing facility in the U.S. and needed to have a higher presence in the community and we needed a bigger name. The new name helps to elevate it to the prominence of where it needs to be.”

According to Briles, the changes were prompted by Rick Braithwaite, a volunteer on the facility’s marketing committee. He realized that two separate entities were attempting to operate under one name, and thought it would be beneficial to separate them. The board of directors approved the name changes in January, and BN Marketing was hired to create logos, new brochures and their new website. “It has been a very quick process,” Briles says.

Grossfeld added, “We’ve had really good publicity within the amateur astronomer community. We’ve had articles written about us as being one of the top five educational facilities in the nation, including Houston Space Center. The problem has been that we haven’t reached out to the folks coming to Central Oregon. The goal is to expand our horizon to include the locals.”

The primary fundraiser for the new buildings is a mailing to supporters of the organization. Brochures are also provided for people coming through the observatory to give potential donors an idea of how their contributions will be used. Grossfield said that the program has “raised almost half of the money…we are well on our way and we have a lot of support from the community.”

The launch of the new campaign began on June 30 when the new business names were introduced along with new logos, signage and exhibits in an unveiling event for the community. The mission of the organization is to enable generations to come to understand and cherish the natural world. Donations to the Nature Center and Observatory are appreciated.

Info: 541-593-4442 or to pledge support.


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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