The big project is the Education Center, a facility that would feature a lecture hall/classroom, washrooms, display area, gift shop, plus other features to promote public education. We have drafted details specs and established a footprint, and the Environmental Assessment study has been completed. We are in the process of siting the structure accurately, in the vicinity of the current 15” telescope dome.
Then, when funds become available, we’ll take our specs and site plan to an architect who will produce an engineering drawing to check feasibility of what we are proposing and to generate cost figures. During the ongoing process we are raising monies for construction of the facility. We anticipate construction beginning next summer if all goes as planned.
Currently as an immediate improvement, we are looking at establishing a temporary Greeting Center at the foot of the hill at the parking lot. There would be souvenirs available to purchase there. Incoming visitors could receive information about the evening’s program, and could make their donations there ($5/visitor suggested).
We are also looking at constructing several small buildings at upper level to facilitate more efficient use of small and portable telescopes: A roll-off roof facility with several concrete pads and metal piers, to accommodate Ken Robbins’ 10-inch plus several of our other smaller telescopes, and a storage shed for larger “Dobs” that tourguides and guests bring, so these can be safely stored during the day.
Richard Berry, Mark Dunaway, Kent Fairfield, Greg Hogue, Rick Kang, Norma Leistiko, Bob McGown, and Karl Oestreich, have held three meetings so far to develop specifications for the proposed Education Center to be located at the current 15” telescope site at PMO.
During the prior year, the Forest Service had gone through the process of preparing and approving the Environmental Assessment study for the footprint of the proposed new facility. Immediate benefit of the approval has been that a number of new growth trees that obscure viewing from all three telescope domes, have been removed or will be removed shortly.
In July, an initial meeting was held in Bend to establish a list of potential User Groups, Outreach Activities and Programs, and to formulate a detailed list of features that should be included at the new facility. This list accounted for specific types and specs of telescopes needed to facilitate the variety of observers and observing programs, plus details of floor plans that included a classroom/lecture hall, gift shop, washrooms, plus storage space, office space, and a variety of auxiliary areas. Consideration was also given to outdoor observing/viewing areas, both for daytime and nighttime viewing, plus considerations for ergonomics, environment protection, safety, and to accommodate physically challenged visitors.
In January, the committee reconvened in Lyons, with the specific mission to prepare to raise the funds by clearly defining what we’ll provide to whom, at the new Center. As the U of O Development Office entered the picture to begin the fund-raising process, we needed to develop a very focused picture that could readily show a potential donor exactly where we are headed.
We finalized our definition of our MARKETS: General touring public, Specific Organizations, Students of all ages, Teachers, Amateur Astronomers, and Distance learners. Then we finalized the PRODUCTS the Ed Center would provide to these MARKETS: Tours of current evening sky, live viewing and imaging opportunities of sky objects, information about science, technology, and learning/teaching of astronomy, astrophysics, and space travel, facilitation of research opportunities for students, teachers, and amateur astronomers, and access to databases/files of digital sky data. In addition, we’d provide camps, workshops, and development sessions for students and teachers, and offer educational and commemorative objects/souvenirs/images/software for purchase.
To offer these PRODUCTS, we decided that our facility had to include a classroom where 120 people could be seated, and 6 fixed telescopes (wide and narrow fields, optical and digital, group and physically challenged viewing, and TV camera feed), plus portable telescopes. We’d need storage cabinets for the portable telescopes, and amphitheatre area outdoors, storage areas inside for props and projects, washrooms, offices, giftshop, network cabinet, and exhibits gallery. We calculated that we’d use 3505 square feet for these items. We’d considered a kitchen/dining facility, library, break room, and staff residence, but deferred these items to other locations on the mountain.
We’ll have the complete meeting minutes including details of the various lists posted at the FOPMO website shortly.
We are concerned that we’ll need funding for a STAFF to operate the facility, including Manager, Gift Shop staff, Instructional Staff, Maintenance, plus tour guides for evening programs. The staffing is integral to the usefulness of the facility: Without adequate staffing all we’re doing is building a monument.
Our MARKETS/PRODUCTS/SITE PLAN data was then used by Kent Fairfield to develop a greatly revised Powerpoint presentation that could be shown to perspective donors, clearly demonstrating our objectives.
On February 25th, the Planning Committee convened again at Lyons: This time our mission was to establish essential design criteria for the Ed Center Building/Complex so that actual architectural design could commence: Decide on a length and width, number of stories, basic rooms/functions, auxiliary buildings needed. The guideline would be to design only for ESSENTIAL criteria, yet to allow for efficient expansion and modification in near future
First we reconsidered what we currently do at PMO and who we currently primarily serve: This was simple: Sky tours for a variety of groups of clients, and workshops for teachers and students.
What do we URGENTLY need to do these tasks right away? Lecture room/Classroom, Network cabinet/room, Washrooms, larger/better gift shop, Storage space for props and supplies, display area for basic lessons and current events, hallways.
Plus, off-footprint, we URGENTLY need Education grade Telescope with camera for remote use, and convenient storage for portable scopes.
What else would be really useful/productive/handy? Large aperture telescope for optical viewing equipped with remote control access and camera for local display, office space, dining/meal preparation space, viewing deck, additional display areas for basics and historical displays, large amphitheatre, “pipehenge” armillary educational model of sky, scale model solar system to walk through.
We detailed out the square footage for each feature in the Urgently needed category above. One simplification was to MOVE THE TELESCOPES TO SEPARATE STRUCTURES NOT WITHIN THE PRIMARY ED CENTER BUILDING, they could be built one by one later on, fine tuning as our needs become more apparent. Along these lines we figured constructing a separate structure for portable telescope storage, east of the 24” dome, serving as a light barrier as well as a storage unit. We’d also figure constructing a roll-off small building to house the current 10” automated Meade as well as one other viewing telescope. We also will investigate setting up a small dome for a research telescope nearby the 32” building.
The actual Education Center building now comes in at 3600 square feet, exactly matched to the original proposed footprint. Mark will take our specs to an architect for a working drawing. We will also have the architect cost out the construction, and add a basement, and figure the cost of adding the basement to the structure. We envision expansion to include items in the “what else would be…” category, and are thus considering the basement as the most reasonable area to expand into (second story would add several operating complications and may not fit into the overall site plan).
We discussed diverting our visitors’ program to Millican for one season, perhaps using a large portable tent as an auditorium, figuring that if we began construction on the new Ed Center at the end of next season, and resumed construction in early Spring, we would only need to have the upper mountain facility closed for one year.
We discussed a tentative budget of $2.5 Million initial estimate for building plus operating costs: Construction costs ~$1.5 Million, ~$1 million for 1st year operation of which $.5 million invested as endowment for continuing operations. These figures were essentially “picked from thin air”, and will be much more substantiated after the architectural review.
There will be several more Committee meetings as we hone the specifications and gain data on costs. We’ll decide on the final configuration, work out more details of specific telescopes, and work on operations plans.
The fundraising efforts are being stepped up, please see associated link about PMO NEEDS YOU. If you have any questions, suggestions, would like to participate in the meetings, or can participate and/or assist in fundraising, please contact any of the current committee members.