Left to right: Rotarian Marilyn MacDonald and MHA member Brian Antonson

Left to right: Rotarian Marilyn MacDonald and MHA member Brian Antonson

Observatory planned for park

Stargazers will soon have a spot to visit in Fraser River Heritage Park

A new home for stargazers will be built at Fraser River Heritage Park.

The popular park on Mary Street will attract even more visitors when an observatory is completed, said Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton, who presented the Mission Heritage Association with a $100,000 grant from the provincial government Monday morning to get the project underway.

Mission’s Sunrise Rotary Club provided the initial donation of $40,000 and fundraising efforts will continue until the $220,000 goal is reached.

The observatory will be located behind the Norma Kenney House, between the gravel trail and service access road.

“We want to create a community of observers,” said Brian Antonson, a member of the MHA board — which oversees park operations — who originally had the vision for the project.

There’s nothing like this from here to the Interior that’s open to the public, he added.

The roughly 40-foot square building will have a flat top and a dome on one side for astronomy fans to watch nightly movements in the sky or daily activities of the sun.

The prime telescope will be about 17 to 20 inches in diameter, said Antonson, explaining “the larger the mirror, the better to see the night sky with.”

There will also be smaller telescopes and people are encouraged to bring their own. A solar telescope will also be available during the day.

“The sun is dramatic,” said Antonson, who has a few telescopes of his own.

“The building will be a centre for learning. People can walk in and see what we’re shooting in the sky.”

A control room will record all the nightly happenings and weather readings too.

This will be something we can use all day and all year, said Antonson.

An opening date is not yet available as building design and permit timelines are unknown.

If you would like to contribute to the fundraising efforts for the observatory, call the MHA at 604-826-0277.