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Lake Afton Public Observatory Expected To Reopen Next Month

Deborah Shaar
KMUW/File photo
The Lake Afton Public Observatory.

A Wichita-based astronomy group plans to re-open the Lake Afton Public Observatory by the end of August.

Members of the nonprofit Kansas Astronomical Observers have been working nearly a year to become the operators of the observatory. The transition is expected to be finalized Wednesday when the Sedgwick County Commissioners vote on a two-year lease agreement with the group.

Observatory Director Harold Henderson says the county owns the property and building, but won’t charge rent.

"It’s a relatively small facility. There’s only 2,900 square feet, and it’s a very special purpose," he says. "If we did not lease this building, there would no other conceivable use for it. It doesn’t even make a good storage shed."

Henderson says they’ve been negotiating with the county for the past few months and expects the agreement to pass.

“I’m glad to see the efforts and planning starting to pay off, starting to take tangible steps,” he says.

Wichita State University officials closed the facility last August because the low number of visitors in recent years couldn’t justify the operating costs. The university operated the observatory for 34 years and agreed to leave the telescope and exhibits in place for the astronomy group.

Henderson says the group plans to update the observatory with new displays, and they'll launch an aggressive advertising and social media campaign to get the word out about the observatory.


Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar.


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