Goldendale Observatory State Park
|Goldendale Observatory State Park|
|Area||5 acres (2.0 ha)|
|Operated by||Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission|
Goldendale Observatory State Park is an educational facility near Goldendale, Washington. It was acquired by the state of Washington in 1980, after being operated by the Goldendale Observatory Corporation since October 13, 1973.
The park consists of 5 acres (20,000 m2) of ground located on top of a 2,100 ft (640 m) hill. Access is via a winding road through an oak forest. The site includes a small picnic area, an interpretive center, amphitheater, and the observatory. It has several telescopes, including the main instrument. It receives about 30-40,000 visitors per year.
The telescope was the work of four amateur astronomers — M.W. McConnell, John Marshall, Don Conner and O.W. VanderVelden — who built a 24.5 in (620 mm) Cassegrain reflecting telescope. This instrument was originally intended for Clark College in Vancouver, Washington. However, due to the typically cloudy weather on the windward side of the Cascade Mountain Range, the four were looking for a less cloudy area to place the telescope. While getting food and gas from Goldendale, one of the workers at a diner came by and told the four that they could build the telescope in Goldendale. After some reluctance, an agreement was made and the telescope was donated to Goldendale on the condition that Goldendale will make an observatory for the telescope. A local, non-profit organization was created to make the observatory which was constructed on this hilltop to the north of the town, soon to become a public education center. The observatory dome has a diameter of 20 ft (6.1 m).
On February 26, 1979, the observatory served as the National Astronomical League official headquarters during a solar eclipse which occurred on February 26, 1979, six years after the observatory opened. Approximately 15,000 people came to the town of Goldendale on that date to observe the eclipse.
The observatory has been threatened with closure due to state budget cuts several times beginning in 1980, but has thus far managed to remain in operation.
In 2010, the Observatory's 5 acres (20,000 m2) was designated by the International Dark Sky Association as a Dark Sky Park.
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