Photo above: Observatory Park by Mirania Photography
I have written many features about our wonderful parks here in Geauga County. Geauga Park District has provided our residents with so many incredible parks and programs to enjoy all year long. I have visited all of their parks except two, Observatory Park and Whitlam Woods. Well, that is until last weekend, when I made my way up to Montville to watch the meteor shower at Observatory Park in the middle of the night.
A Once in a Lifetime Event
On Friday, May 23, 2014, astronomers were predicting a once in a lifetime event in the northern skies. A dust cloud left behind from Comet 209P/Linear may have created three or four, or even hundreds more, shooting stars per minute. My boyfriend and I decided that we did not want to miss this. So, what better place to look for a meteor shower than Observatory Park, one of only 11 International Dark Sky Parks in the world. It was about 50 degrees that night, so we put on hooded sweatshirts, grabbed a few blankets, and hit the road at about 10:30 p.m.
We were not the only ones that had this idea. The parking lot at the park was just about full when we arrived. We walked down the sidewalk toward the two small buildings and the downward facing red lights in the distance. As we were walking, a huge beam of light came from the area in between the buildings shining up into the sky. Astro-nat Chris had this amazing laser pointer and was pointing out different planets and constellations to all of the visitors that were eagerly looking up into the sky. Several telescopes were set up for guests to view Mars, Jupiter, and large clusters of stars.
We wandered around in the fog and the darkness on the Weather Trail that led out into a large meadow. We found a park bench to sit on and look for meteors for a little bit. We decided that, after the recommendation of Astro-nat Chris, we would find a spot and lie down to look straight up into the sky for the best chance of seeing the meteors. We lay on the ground near one of the buildings until about 12:30 a.m. when we decided we had not dressed warmly enough. We came home, warmed up, and went outside on our deck around 2 a.m. In total, we saw about 10 meteors, which we were satisfied with for the night.
What a fantastic opportunity Geauga Park District gives to us by keeping this park open all night and having staff members on hand to answer questions. And thanks to Mother Nature, we were able to enjoy quite a show! Now, I need to make time to go there during the day, so I see one of the regular programs at Observatory Park, The Sky Tonight Planetarium Show. You can attend this program every Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Robert McCullough Science Center until July , when it changes to the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month.. For a full list of park programs, click here.
About the Park
The property that is now Observatory Park had long been recognized by astronomers as one of the few regions left in Northeast Ohio that had not yet been affected by light pollution. After a series of acquisitions, including the Nassau Observatory formerly owned and operated by Case Western Reserve University, the park now totals 1,100 acres in Montville Township. It is a park dedicated to the natural sciences. Click here to learn more about the developmental phases of Observatory Park.
Live weather data can be viewed here from the Weather Station at Observatory Park. The weather station features a thermometer, a barometer, a rainfall gauge, an anemometer, and a weather vane. This park also has a Seismic Station featuring a seismometer that detects earth tremors deep in the earth’s crust and a seismograph, which transforms a tremor’s seismic wave energy into electrical voltage that is converted into digital data.
As mentioned above, the Robert McCullough Science Center offers a weekly planetarium show (now through July, then it shows only the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month). It also features a meteorite display and projection equipment for astronomy related programming. Across the plaza, the Oberle Observatory houses a very large telescope under its retractable roof. The plaza is equipped with five telescope pads with electricity hookups for amateur astronomers to use their own equipment for sky viewing.
Currently, there are two trails at Observatory Park, the Planetary Trail and the Weather Trail. Both provide interpretive displays along the way. These trails are not paved but are wheelchair accessible. Download a park map here. Additional nature trails will be added in the future to join the property where the Nassau Observatory is located with the rest of the park.
Geauga Park District has incorporated many green features into this park. Those features include green roofing, a wind turbine, solar panels, waterless bathrooms, and downward-facing LED lighting. Additionally, recycled materials were used throughout the construction of the park.
Summer Adventure Camps
Summer campers loved their first year (2013) of outdoor adventures in Geauga Park District – biking, fishing, exploring the woods and sending rockets high into the sky. This video below is from last year’s camps, but it gives you an idea of the many adventures that the kids can take around Geauga Park District. Click HERE for more information about summer camps.
Take a hike, bring your binoculars and your camera, and enjoy what nature has to offer.
10610 Clay Street
Montville, OH 44064
The online home for Observatory Park, from which information for this article was obtained, can be found HERE.