Stars at night

40-Hectare Park Approved for Observatory Lands

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RICHMOND HILL – With the ambitious Observatory Hill low-rise community prepares for a Spring 2017 launch, the Town of Richmond Hill is moving forward with determining how to use the rest of the space surrounding the historic David Dunlap Observatory (DDO).

On September 27, Council hit a key milestone by approving the DDO Park Master Plan, which presents a vision for “preserving and enhancing” 40 hectares (or roughly 100 acres) of the observatory grounds – a plot that represents more than half of the 76.5-hectare property.

The draft plan for the park that Council approved was developed with the help of extensive public consultation – during which residents pointed to natural heritage protection, recreational opportunities, and heritage in the science of astronomy as their top priorities for the park.

Consequently, the plan features a broad range of family-friendly amenities, such as:

  • Visitors’ Centre with adjacent conservatory and community orchard
  • Skating trail
  • Wildlife corridor and wetland/wildlife refuge
  • Picnic area, playground, and Central Fountain Plaza
  • Tennis courts conveniently located close by to the existing Elvis Stojko Arena

The revitalized park will also provide opportunities for education and outreach programming, with a focus on science and astronomy. After all, the area’s history is steeped in both – since its construction in 1935 by the University of Toronto, the observatory was responsible for numerous key advances in radio astronomy. (It also produced the first direct evidence that the star Cygnus X-1 was actually a black hole.)

“Our vision is for the park to form part of Richmond Hill’s identity as a treasured place in the GTA that embodies discovery, education, sustainability and inclusion,” explained Mayor Dave Barrow via news release.

“When construction of the DDO Park is complete, people will come to visit Canada’s historic observatory, celebrate the stars and enjoy acres of natural parkland.”

While the town estimates that construction on the park will begin in “a few years,” the full timeline for project completion is estimated at between 15 and 20 years.

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