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Plan To Reopen Lake Afton Public Observatory Moving Forward

Deborah Shaar

A plan to reopen the Lake Afton Public Observatory is moving forward.

Wichita State University closed the 34-year old observatory last August as attendance had dipped in recent years. Ever since the Lake Afton Public Observatory closed, a local group of astronomers has been working to reopen the facility.

Credit Deborah Shaar / KMUW
The telescope at the observatory.

Members of the Kansas Astronomical Observers (KAO) want to take over the operation, but they need approval from Sedgwick County, which owns the building and property, and from Wichita State University, which owns the telescope and exhibits.

Representatives from all three parties are scheduled to meet Friday to iron out the legal details to complete the transfer of operation.

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn will represent the county on a new Lake Afton Public Observatory Board.

Lake Afton is in Peterjohn’s 3rd District. He says he’s a strong supporter of reopening the observatory. Peterjohn says county officials recently did a walk-through of the building and grounds to verify the current condition.

Credit Google Maps

The observatory building has been idle for five months. It is located at the northern tip of Lake Afton in Sedgwick County, about 20 miles southwest of downtown Wichita and six miles southwest of Goddard.

The observatory was built in 1979 as a cooperative effort between the City of Wichita, Sedgwick County, Wichita State University and Wichita Public Schools. WSU and the Wichita school district ran the Observatory together until 1995 when the school district pulled out due to budget issues. WSU created the Fairmount Center for Science and Mathematics Education and continued operations until Aug. 22, 2015.


Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar.

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