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Observatory Dome Now In Place

By: Mike Connolly

We had a lot of fun raising the dome at the new Estes Park Observatory at noon last Tuesday, November 25. Everything went perfect. I was a little nervous about the wind but we had an excellent crane operator.

The crane and operator were donated by Dennis Wyatt of Wyatt Crane & Rigging Company of Loveland Colorado. They placed a similar dome on the Little Thompson Observatory in Berthoud Colorado so they are experienced at this. Our dome is 16 foot in diameter and weights 2,100 lbs. It is designed to support a 3,500 lb. wind and snow load. It was awesome to watch, the crane was a 30 ton boom truck and Kinny Meintzer from Wyatt Crane and Rigging was the operator. He had 60 feet of boom out and the dome was up at least 50 feet.

It  seems as if it has been a long time since we started the project of this observatory. We lost our children who inspired this project in July 2005. Then we started pursuing the land leasing agreement with the school in November 2005. It took us the next 10 months to get our 501 (C) 3 non-profit designation before we could sign any of the leasing agreements with the school.  Construction actually started in August 2007 and proceeded rapidly until the dome portion of construction. That took quite awhile because it was done with volunteers and volunteer dome building experts who gave us as much time as they could.

We owe our most recent progress to the return of our carpenters, Wes and Dusty Gunther who came back from a big home building project in Steamboat to build the mounting structure for our dome.

I’m also in debt to the tremendous generosity of Meinte Valdhuis, president of the Little Thompson Observatory, who has come up to Estes almost every weekend for the past six months to personally supervise and assist in the building of our dome. We could not have done it without him.
From now on, the construction will be more conventional. Our builder, Roy Johnson of Johnson Construction will supervise the remaining construction. We need to hook up the electricity and plumbing and finish the interior. I anticipate finishing this up in the next couple of months but I’m always reluctant to commit to a date because of the volunteer nature of our project. Astronomy classes from the school are anxious to use the facility as soon as possible. We have the furnishings, (tables, chairs, cabinets, etc) which came out of the old high school, ready to go.  They are currently stored in the old elementary school.

Keep watching for more details about when the observatory will officially be open. It is an exciting time for our community!

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