Richmond Hill moved one step closer to establishing the David Dunlap Observatory (DDO) Park with the transfer of the land and buildings to the Town of Richmond Hill on March 21, 2017. The transfer includes 40 hectares of parkland, the Observatory Dome facility with the original 1.88 metres telescope and the Administration Building on the DDO property.

“This is significant for Richmond Hill. We are proud that our efforts to preserve this land for the community have paid off,” said Mayor Dave Barrow. “The Observatory Dome is a classic symbol of our history, and now an exciting part of our future, as well.”

The DDO property is a 76.5-hectare site located in central Richmond Hill between Bayview Avenue to the east, the CN rail line to the west, 16th Avenue to the south and Hillsview Drive to the north. The DDO opened in 1935, a gift to the University of Toronto by Jessie Donalda Dunlap as a memorial to her husband David Alexander Dunlap.

The DDO was the research centre for the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto from the 1930s until 2008, when it was sold to the land developer Corsica Development Inc. Since then, Richmond Hill Council  has taken several steps to ensure that this valued resource remains vital and accessible into the future.

The transfer of the parkland, Dome and Administrative Building to Richmond Hill is a key component of the DDO Park Master Plan which was approved in September 2016 and determines the overall vision and strategic approach to preserving and enhancing the 40-hectare site. Work is expected to begin on the park within the next few years and there will be opportunities for the community to provide input.

“The DDO Park will become a treasured place in the GTA that embodies discovery, education, sustainability and inclusion,” said Mayor Barrow. “It will be a combination of heritage preservation, unique recreation opportunities and a celebration of the astronomical history of the site.”

In the coming months, Richmond Hill staff will be reviewing proposals for programming at the Observatory buildings so that the DDO continues to be a regional centre for education and public outreach related to astronomy. Staff will also be working to ensure the site meets the health and safety, building code and accessibility requirements so that the site is safe for public use.

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