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Charlie in Dayton
2005-Mar-11, 03:46 AM
I'm guessing this is the place to put this...

Ohio's state parks to charge use fees at the gate (http://www.daytondailynews.com/localnews/content/localnews/daily/0307stateparksweb.html)

Ohio DNR calls it a 'parking pass' (http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/news/jan05/parkspass/default.htm)

The Miami Valley Astronomical Society's dark sky site is a fully equipped visual and imaging observatory (http://www.mvas.org/facilities.html) located at John Bryan State Park northeast of Dayton. In addition to the permanently installed equipment (which is slated to expand this summer, to include the Maury Childs Observatory - Maury passed away last year, and his legacy will include a pier-mounted Meade LX scope in a rolloff-roof shed), there are club-owned scopes ranging from the simplest of beginner refractors to 16" Dobs. We support the state's camper program with Camper Stargazes approximately every other week at JB, and at Caesar's Creek every August for the overnight Perseids campout.

Now, the parks are going to charge $5 per car on entry, or $25 for a year's pass to the entire system. This Friday night is the regular MVAS club meeting, and it will be interesting to see what this development will do to the volunteer lists for the observatory. I don't see very many people wanting to participate if it costs, even if the $25/year pass gives access to the entire park system.

A similar problem faces the Cincinnati Astronomical Society, who put on regular stargazes at Hueston Woods and Caesar's Creek state parks.

I'll keep the teeming squillions here up to date on this situation, because once precedent has been set, other states just might decide to jump on the bandwagon. Yours might be next...

W.F. Tomba
2005-Mar-11, 04:02 AM
When you say volunteer lists, do you mean people doing volunteer work for the observatory are going to be charged? That sounds stupid and darned ungrateful. It's not much money, but I can see how people would be turned off by that.

Charlie in Dayton
2005-Mar-11, 04:17 AM
There's no official volunteer list. If a member wants, they just come out to a camper stargaze, bringing their scope out, and showing the public the stars. Afterwards, we go from the big parking lot where the camper 'gaze is up to the observatory at the top of the hill to finish out the night (and come summertime, a lot of us don't leave until well after daylight...them couches and comfy chairs in the hallway and lounge get a good workout).

Up to this point, the facility has been open to any MVAS member -- what they've got access to depends on what qualifications training they've passed. Numerous members just bring their own scopes for the evening (more than one member has had to buy a new minivan or pickup truck to haul that one-eyed monster of their dreams...me, it fits in the trunk of my little Chebby), and on a good night it's not uncommon for there to be a dozen scopes and forty people out there.

What happens to the people who use the site, be they volunteers or not? Remains to be seen...I could live with anyone who's recognized by the club as a volunteer/regular user getting a pass, based on the support the organization gives the state over the year. But what does this do for our one big social event of the year, the combined BBQ/stargaze/bullsqueezin's session after the Apollo Rendezvous? People attend this event from all over the tri-state area, and the BBQ/SG/B$ session is greatly looked forward to.

Geez, I'm gonna have a whole lot to talk about at the meeting tomorrow night...every time I consider this whole foofooraw, another problem rears its ugly head...

frogesque
2005-Mar-11, 10:33 AM
Charlie:

First link requires a sub log in. Second link gives a fairly comprehensive justification for the charges. I'm afraid it's a fact of life that park visitors create problems (path erosion, litter, legal costs, ranger or equivalent services, toilets etc.) and it all has to be paid for. $25 for an anual unlimited access to all parks doesn't sound excessive. Tough on any established users like yourselves but that's the way the world is going. Unless you can find a loophole in the legislation (does the park have a covenant that says free unlimited access for all buried somewhere in its history?) then I'm afraid your stuck with it. Reading between the lines they do have their bases covered. They are charging vehicle access, walkin access will still be free (backpackers?) so you would have a hard fight. What might be appropriate rather than a hostile campaign would be to contact the park management and see if you can get concessions for students, kids, elderly, disabled or even for your annual meet. I know you are closely involved with astronomy but a vast majority will have a, "So what?", shrug attitude. It will be seen as a minority interest that uses a lot of park resource sporadically and at what most folk consider unsocial hours. However well behaved your group is (and I'm sure you keep a tight reign on those sprogs) there will be blue suits in the legal department having kittens over issues of responsibilities and the possibilities of court cases should someone get injured and no ranger present.

It's sad charges have to be made and I feel for you all but I'm just trying to see it from the authorities point of view. I think you'll make more headway trying to work with them rather than a confrontation. It will also make your case stronger if you explore all avenues first :wink:

Russ
2005-Mar-11, 01:43 PM
Hey Charlie: I didn't see any news about the Apollo Rendezvous on the MVAS site. What's the scoop? Not cancelled or abandoned I hope.

George
2005-Mar-11, 02:19 PM
Charlie, I noticed a phone no. in the 2nd site. Have you called them to see what they know about your circumstance?

Also, I wonder if entrance to certain parks are free after 5 p.m. or so? [I was hoping someone more experienced with parks would have had a better answer for you by now.]

If turn-out is poor tonite, you might get the club to fire-off complaints to your state rep.

Let us know how things work out.

Charlie in Dayton
2005-Mar-12, 04:51 AM
Russ: here ya go... (http://www.mvas.org/ar2005/AR2005_1.htm)

We had the club meeting tonite, and the whole thing is still up in the air, both on our end and in the state capitol. Various lawyers/legislators are saying it can't be done because the rules say X and others are pontificating that it's entirely proper because the rules say Y. Apparently MVAS and CAS are not the only groups caught up in this "we volunteer, why do we have to pay" stuff. The powers-that-be are taking cover from all the flak they're getting on this from all sides. It's a long way from being resolved...We've got an Observatory meeting tomorrow night, so we'll be cussin' and discussin' this more, in detail. In addition, there are at least three club members who are in contact with various echelons of the administration (just to keep up to speed -- none of 'em have authority to commit to anything) so we'll be getting the straight skinny from the correct end of the horse.

Stay tuned... :-s

um3k
2005-Mar-12, 07:36 PM
If the club's land within the park is under lease, then the law does not apply to the club or any events it holds. If the land the observatory is on is being leased by the club, then there won't be any problems.

I'm pretty sure I described that right. :wink:

Russ
2005-Mar-13, 11:06 PM
If the club's land within the park is under lease, then the law does not apply to the club or any events it holds. If the land the observatory is on is being leased by the club, then there won't be any problems.

I'm pretty sure I described that right. :wink:

How do you know this? Are you an attourny in Ohio? Maybe some other form of knowledge holder? If you are correct, it could mean big things for MVAS!

um3k
2005-Mar-13, 11:28 PM
If the club's land within the park is under lease, then the law does not apply to the club or any events it holds. If the land the observatory is on is being leased by the club, then there won't be any problems.

I'm pretty sure I described that right. :wink:

How do you know this? Are you an attourny in Ohio? Maybe some other form of knowledge holder? If you are correct, it could mean big things for MVAS!
It was discussed at a recent Astronomy Club of Akron meeting. Someone there is knowledgeable in that subject matter.

Charlie in Dayton
2005-Mar-14, 04:22 AM
The land/facilities in question started out life as a visual satellite tracking facility that the Air Force ran. The program ended, and the land was either turned over to or returned to the state (not sure if Uncle Sugar was an owner or just a tenant here). The facility sat unused for a long time, and the state was thinking (I think) of tearing it down. The MVAS made an offer to equip and run it, in return for considerations from the state park service -- no rent, 24 hour access (we get gate keys), and the well at the observatory actually provides water for at least one other public access building in the park.
There is only one road in and out of the observatory, its parking lot is inside the fenced-in enclosure, there are no other facilities within a half-mile of us (other than a couple of the hiking trails that loop through the general area). In return, we provide educational services numerous times during the traditional warm-weather camping season, and the Boy Scout/Girl Scout camps that abut the park share have connecting trails to the observatory -- they show up relatively often, with prior arrangement. With all the various stargazes that MVAS puts on or participates in at various state parks, it is no stretch to say we easily present the stars to well over a thousand visitors a year.
We're still waiting for some more official comments from TPTB...stay tuned. More information here, same bat-time, same bat-channel... :o