Posted: 12:00 a.m. Saturday, April 12, 2014

Community Conversation

​​Arla Tannehill, administrator, Area Progress Council

An observatory will bring stargazing to county.


​​Arla Tannehill, administrator, Area Progress Council photo
The Warren County Career Center’s carpentry students work on the roof of the Rachel A. Hutzel Observatory. CONTRIBUTED

By Lisa Knodel

Contributing Writer

Stargazing doesn’t have to be out of this world. It’s right here in Warren County.

The Rachel A. Hutzel Observatory is now under construction at Camp Joy near Clarksville and scheduled to open later this year.

The observatory will house a telescope built by Jeff Blazey, husband of former Warren County judge and prosecutor Rachel Hutzel, who died nearly two years ago after a battle with cancer.

The 12-foot-long, 13-inch refracting telescope will be installed in the main room of the 600-sqaure-foot building with retractable roof. The Warren County Career Center’s carpentry, electrical, heavy equipment and HVAC environmental controls students are constructing a large portion of the building.

It was Hutzel’s dream before her death to construct an observatory and establish the Warren County Astronomical Society.

The Area Progress Council or Warren County coordinated the fundraising and construction of the Rachel A. Hutzel Observatory. Additionally, APC was the driver to establish a partnership between the Warren County Astronomical Society and Camp Joy to operate and facilitate programming at the facility, which is valued at $350,000.

APC also established the Rachel A. Hutzel Endowment fund to ensure future funding support. The endowment is maintained at the Warren County Foundation.

Arla Tannehill, APC administrator, talks about the observatory.

Q: What is the Rachel A. Hutzel Observatory?

A: The Rachel A. Hutzel Observatory, located at Camp Joy, will provide an opportunity for children and adults to experience the fascinating, mysterious and awesome dark skies of Warren County.

Q: How did this project come to be?

A: Rachel Hutzel and her husband, Jeff Blazey, made the concept of having an observatory in Warren County possible. Early in 2011, Rachel had the vision and recognized the great potential for this project. Together, Rachel and Jeff generously donated the telescope that will be used at the observatory.

Q: Why is the observatory being named in Hutzel’s honor?

A: In August 2012, the observatory team met to select an appropriate name for the new celestial observatory. There were many reasons to credit Rachel Hutzel for this exciting project.

Rachel’s lifelong involvement in promoting and protecting the youth of our community, focusing particularly on education and child advocacy, aligns well with the intended purpose of the new observatory at Camp Joy.

Rachel and Jeff together made this project possible through the donation of a valuable, custom-built, university-quality, 11-inch refractor telescope, making this project financially feasible for a largely rural county like Warren.

Rachel had the original vision and recognized the great potential for this project early in 2011, and she recruited the core team to accomplish the project. Out of respect and affection for Rachel, key team members responded and quickly “caught the spirit” to make this project become a reality.

Through her work as the former Prosecutor of Warren County and Judge on the Twelfth District Court of Appeals, Rachel’s dedication to our community was paramount. Aside from the elected positions Rachel held, she was also very active in many charitable organizations. Naming the observatory after Rachel Hutzel provides an opportunity for us to remember Rachel and see her dream of the observatory come to life.

Q: What is the mission of the observatory?

A: Telescopes are one of the most essential tools for teaching science, physics, math, astronomy, engineering, meteorology.

We as a country need to inspire our children to become engineers, scientists, physicists, who develop the products and materials that the rest of the world uses.

Too many children and even adults have never looked through a telescope to see Saturn’s rings, the donut shaped remnants of an exploded star, a moon orbiting Jupiter, a cluster of a quarter million stars or even a crater on the moon. The dark skies of Warren County will soon open up a window that is fun, fascinating, mysterious and awesome right in our own Camp Joy.

Q: What are highlights of the project?

A: Project highlights include an 11-inch refracting telescope, computer-controlled telescope mount, observatory with built-in bench seating, retractable roof, warm room for winter viewing, outdoor education plaza and outdoor covered picnic patio. The observatory also will feature several very large, laser-engraved, black granite wall coverings displaying the universe and its most interesting features.

Q: What is APC’s role in the creation of the observatory?

A: In February 2011 Jeff Blazey proposed an in-kind donation of a large telescope for use in a public access observatory to Warren County. He invited Walt Davis and several other members of the community to see the telescope. The visit became the first step in forming a team of interested people to build a small observatory.

Walt recognized this idea could possibly excite members of APC. The advocates for business, education and community service remain vigilant for educational and cultural projects that will enhance our area. Five members of the APC Board volunteered and formed an ad hoc Warren County Observatory Committee.

Maggie Hess, Superintendent of the Warren County Career Center and APC Board Member, suggested construction of the observatory as a school project for its commercial-grade construction trade programs.

With this project, APC can achieve still another major quality-of-life enhancement for the residents of Warren County.

Q: Who are the partners working to make the observatory a reality?

A: Partners include the Area Progress Council of Warren County, Inc., Camp Joy, Mound Technologies, Inc. in Springboro, the Warren County Career Center, the Warren County Foundation and Voorhis, Slone, Welsh, Crossland Architects, Inc. in Mason.

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