President’s Message – June 2006
Posted On June 1, 2006
By Barbara Toy
June is the month of the Summer Solstice, when the nights are their shortest and the days their longest. It also tends to be the time of “June gloom,” so we may still be in for some overcast nights. The good news is that the nights are now getting warmer, so we don't need to bundle up the way we do in winter in order to enjoy a night's viewing (or imaging). Of course, with the nights so short, it's a lot easier to stay up all night when the viewing is good, whether you really intended to or not. And, with the delights of summer Milky Way coming into view earlier each night, there's a lot to look at!
Another Reminder of Work Needed at Anza…
Hopefully, by the time you read this, the weeds at Anza will be under control. After several members made a concerted effort to clear them in April – our thanks to all of those who helped in that clearance –a second round popped up in a lot of the areas that had been cleared. This, unfortunately, is the nature of the weeds out at Anza; frequently, we have to clear at least some areas more than once. Chances are that, as you read this, there are still areas where the weeds need to be cut back, even though I am writing this in the middle of May and people may have been out in the intervening weekends to clear out the new growth. Whenever you next go out to Anza, please go early and do some weed cutting – if everyone who uses the Anza site spends just half an hour cutting back the weeds and grasses, that would be more than enough to get the entire job done.
As those of you who use Anza house know, it needs regular vacuuming and cleaning, and it can use other maintenance, as well. Unfortunately, too many of the people who use it seem content to allow the cleaning and other maintenance to be done by others, even though all of that work is done by other club members as volunteers. This puts a heavy burden on the relative few who actually do the work of cleaning and maintaining the property. While you're out at Anza, please make a point of doing at least a little cleaning or other maintenance work – again, if everyone who uses the property spends just a half-hour once a month doing some maintenance, the entire job would be done.
For those who are interested in working on special projects, we have a number of those coming up. At this point, it appears that the observatory roof replacement will be seriously underway near the end of the summer and into the fall, and that will require help not only for assembling the new roof but for removing the old one. Don Lynn has kindly undertaken to do the installation of the Anza perimeter fence, which he is doing on an ongoing basis as he finds the time, and he could use assistance. There are a number of repairs that are needed in Anza house, and we eventually need to rework the warming room of the club Observatory, though not until after the roof is replaced. If you are interested in working on any of these projects, or if there are other projects around Anza that you would like to do, please let me know.
By the way, helpful people keep putting out trash cans in Anza house, and I'm sure they become annoyed when the trash cans regularly vanish. Unfortunately, we cannot get trash service at Anza, which means that everyone needs to remove their own trash when they leave. We have found repeatedly that, even though we have signs out reminding people that they need to take their trash out with them, when there is a trash can in Anza house, everyone assumes that whatever they deposit there will be taken care of by someone else. That “someone else" generally winds up being one of a fairly small group who all too often have to remove garbage left in Anza House by others, hopefully before it attracts too many of the local rodent population. The unfortunate but necessary result of this is that we cannot allow trash cans to be left for use in or around Anza House; there are holders on the wall of the main kitchen where people who are using Anza House can hang their own trash bags, and this has worked pretty well as an alternative to trash cans for the last few years.
Anza Site Development
Since I'm on the subject of Anza, here's an overview of what’s been happening with the planning for further development of our Anza site.
Years ago, Riverside County approved a plan that served as the basis for the site development up until fairly recently. Unfortunately, we used up all of the building permits that were allowed in that original plan several years ago, which meant that the board could not approve any further structures on the site that would require a building permit. In order to develop the remainder of our site, we therefore needed to have a new overall plan, which was developed and submitted to the county about a year ago. The approval process took much longer than we expected, in part because the Planning Department has been swamped due to the incredible amount of development that has been taking place in Riverside County over the last few years. Our overall plan was finally approved, however, at which point the Anza Site Planning Committee started work on the specifics of how we are going to implement the overall plan.
The main area for new development is the northwestern portion of our property, which is generally the area that was burned over by the fire two years ago (although it is not the way we would prefer to do it, the fire did a good job of clearing out the undergrowth and brush, which will make clearing that area much easier). The overall plan provides for new areas for observatories as well as pads, but the area to be developed is rather steeply sloped, which means that we need to do quite a bit of grading to have enough level areas for roadways and parking as well as the pads and observatories themselves. Costs have gone up significantly since the last time we did any major grading on our site, and we are now trying to work out the best way to do the grading so that it will be affordable but will also allow us to maximize our use of the property.
Fortunately, we have a lot of practical knowledge to draw on from members of the planning committee, such as Gary Schones, who has been very much involved in the grading and other construction that has been done on our site since before Anza House was installed, Don Lynn, who has been the Anza Site Custodian for over 20 years and is intimately acquainted with all aspects of the site, Charlie Oostdyk, who was very much involved with earlier phases of development of the site and who also, as our treasurer since the 80’s, knows how the financial and administrative side of past development of the site has been handled, and Leonard Vorhis, who has been a building inspector himself. The other currently active members of the planning committee are important to the overall success of the project, as well – Bob Buchheim (the chair of the group, and who was instrumental in developing plans that could be submitted to the county and in working with the county to get them approved), Tom Kucharski, John Castillo, Alan Smallbone and Jerry Floyd – and I try to help out where I can.
As part of the development process, the planning committee has been working on appropriate standards for construction on the Anza site. One of our concerns is that, as the area around us becomes more populated, we can expect more scrutiny from the inspectors than in times past, which means we need to be sure that any new buildings are up to code, and, ultimately, that any past construction is also brought up the code where needed. As the growing number of lights around our site shows, we also have an interest in being seen as good neighbors in the growing neighborhood around us, which means, among other things, that we need all visible structures on site to be well maintained so that they are not eyesores for our neighbors or for other members using the site – besides the aesthetics, well-maintained structures signal a greater level of vigilance, which should make the site less attractive to potential troublemakers even when members are not actually around. At this point, we expect that the recommendations that the committee ultimately makes to the Board will include standards for work tables and storage on pads as well as standards for observatories and other buildings, and also timelines for completing construction once a specific construction request has been approved by the Board.
Along with construction standards, the committee has been revising and clarifying Anza site policies and procedures, particularly those related to member pads and observatories. In the past, there's been a lot of informality in the relationship between the licensees and the club, but, if all of the development shown on the plan that was approved by the county actually takes place, we will more than double the number of member pads and observatories, and the potential that such informal procedures will create problems or misunderstandings will be greatly increased. Since the membership of the Board changes over time, and licenses also change hands over time, the best way to ensure that what is expected of both sides in the license relationships remains clear is to set it down in writing. As you might expect, that is a challenging project –that is one reason our procedures have remained informal in the past – but we feel that it is a necessary part of the planning process. That, by the way – to give credit where credit is due – is an aspect of the process that was initiated by David Radosevich during his presidency.
As mentioned in an earlier column, the committee has also been considering whether future observatory construction should be limited to one or more specific plans, and whether the club could or should provide a certain number of completed observatories, or make arrangements for approved kits to be used in constructing new observatories. We may be able to benefit from economies of scale if multiple observatories are built to the same design at the same time, or if we can order multiple kits for identical observatories, though that is not a certainty. We are also looking at the possibility of providing metal observatories, or kits for metal observatories, that would be along the lines of the observatory built by Dave Radosevich, Jim Hannum and John Kearns. Some of the advantages of this type of observatory are that they cool down quickly, they are easier to maintain and to keep rodent-proof, all-metal moving roofs are lighter than comparable wooden roofs, and the interior floor space is maximized because the walls are much thinner than with other types of construction; many people prefer wood because they find it easier to work with, however. At this point, we are attempting to get price estimates for the various proposals under consideration, which will help us determine how feasible they are.
Realistically, we are still several months away from breaking ground on new development. However, if you're interested in having an observing pad or observatory at Anza, and you are not yet on the pad or observatory interest list, please contact me to be put on the list. At this point, we have six people on the pad interest list, and 15 people on the observatory interest list; if you are interested, I would suggest you have yourself added to the appropriate list as soon as possible.
Starbecue in July!
On a lighter note, remember that our July star party at Anza is our annual Starbecue – that is, our big potluck party out at Anza, where everyone brings a dish or something to grill for 8-10 people, the club provides drinks, paper plates, utensils, and the barbecue, and everyone has a really great time eating and cooking and socializing as a prelude to a great night of observing or imaging (or both). This is all happening on July 22, and we’ll be setting up around 5:00 behind the club observatory, where there’ll be a growing patch of shade by then. The barbecue will fired up around 5:30, so people who bring things to grill can get started, and we expect people will be seriously diving into the food by 6:00. It’s a good idea to bring your own folding chair if you want to sit down while eating – we can provide a few seats, but not very many.
We can always use help in setting up and in cleaning up afterwards – so please plan to lend a hand. And, if you bring something that isn’t completely gone by the end of the party, please take it home with you – remember that we have a limited ability to preserve (or use) leftovers out there, and it’s very discouraging to have to throw out a lot of good food that people left behind at the end of the party.
These are always a lot of fun, even when the weather isn’t helping us out much – last year, our area was hit with an intense thunder storm just hours before the party, but we all had a great time anyway – so come on out for a great time at the Starbecue, and bring your family, too!
As I write this, I just received notice from Scope City’s Orange County store in Costa Mesa that they are including promotions for the club in their Meade Day event on June 10 – that’s very generous of them, and we are very appreciative of their support. If you see this before June 10, you should check that out – it looks like it will include activities like cleaning and maintaining optics on Meade equipment, help with problems you might be having with any Meade equipment, and lots of interesting demonstrations, as well as a raffle.
And don’t forget to register for AstroImage 2006 – it’s coming up fast! The pre-registration rate is only $95 (the price for the imaging conference on the East Coast that same weekend is $225 – so ours is a real bargain, and with a great speaker lineup). See you there!
© Barbara Toy, May 2006