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A developing Idea of mine (Dark Sky Campground)

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#1 AlaskaIsCold

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 07:56 AM

Hiya!

So after being frustrated about missing comet homes due to clouds...and McNaught due to wrong hemisphere, and currently Panstarrs (due to clouds again) I had an idea, an idea that I couldn't really shake so I decided to give it more thought and see if it was actually viable.

I was thinking about creating a dedicated dark sky campground in south eastern Oregon in the middle of a bortle 1 sky hole. But close enough for a -long- drive [6-10hrs] from large western population centers. For serious observing and astrophotography I was talking to a mod and he pointed out to me a. I should post that idea in this group and b. that places that are somewhat like im talking about exist, both in Georgia and in New Mexico. But there isn't a large one in the western area of US (I guess eastern Utah [Natural bridges] kinda counts?)

I was thinking about what I would have to do to get this done. I'm thinking a non-profit Co-Op set up would work.

The other two seem to have dedicated homes and communities, but I don't think I would have that ability to create something like that.

I guess my goal would be to buy ~100-200 acres of land. an spread out a bunch of perfectly level concrete pads for tripod setups and a bolt set up for pier mounted telescope mounts.

I figure it would be good if 75% of the total platforms could be rented by people (since its non-profit once the land is paid for the "rent" would be used to pay property tax or site improvements and would be fairly little)

The other 25% can be used for a nightly fee (something small like 10-15$ per site per day to go for property tax and site improvement)

Maybe set up a few cabins on the less desirable areas of the land so that people can rest in relative comfort and not interfere with observations.

Some kind of Solar recharge station would be needed so that those visiting for an extended period of time so that they can recharge their system batteries during the day.

Vault toilets would also work. and I could drill a well for water. So water, power, and sanitation would be covered.

I guess these are just ideas that are floating in my head. Once I am done with Alaska and I move back down to western US I can start working on this project seriously.

I wanted to see what other people thought about this loose collection of ideas.

A Dark Sky Campground that is non-profit, Cooperatively owned, Partially open to the public, and serve as a place for those who would never see the milky way to see it in almost the best possible condition.

Give me some feedback?

--Chris

#2 LivingNDixie

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 09:10 AM

I don't know of the one in New Mexico. The location in Georgia is more of astronomy subdivision. The Chiefland Astronomy Village really pioneered this idea. There is a development in Texas that is allowing people to own small lots so you can build an observatory. That business plan seems more like what you are trying to do. Sounds exciting!

#3 drbyyz

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 06:16 PM

Sounds like a great idea! I would definitely make use of something like this if it existed. I'm sure you can find existing business models out there to form yours around, not too familiar with any but I'm sure they exist. I'm somewhat familiar with the one in Georgia and it is indeed more of a community where people of similar interests have bought houses in a small, localized community. Not what you are thinking of I expect.

You would do well to look into astronomy clubs and locals in the area you are looking at to get as much info as possible. See if there is indeed a market in the area for the project and possibly even find some contributors to help with start up cost(perhaps offer them lifetime access, etc.).

Keep us updated on your ideas and progress! I'm sure many on here will be interested in this.

#4 kfrederick

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 06:22 PM

A sky camp ground . Cool

#5 DarkSkys

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 07:53 PM

Sounds interesting.
If it was open to the "pubic", you would have to have some Iron clad Lighting rules. No gas lanterns, party lamps, etc.

Might have to find out if you would have to have some sort of Water truck for fire fighting. In alot of very rural Eastern WA/Or, your on your own when it comes to protecting your property during wild fires.

You would have the water source covered if you had a Solar/Gas/Diesel Gen system hooked to a large enough well. Would be a bit hit and miss though, alot of eastern or, doesnt have much water above or below ground.



#6 AlaskaIsCold

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 08:11 PM

Yeah, the rules would be iron clad when it comes to issues of lighting, but if you are a fellow stargazer they are actually fairly easy to deal with since they would follow ones own interests.

For everything that is power based I would like it to be completely solar, that way I don't have to be making trips back and forth to get more fuel. As for water, I want to try to get a well going, but if not I would need large water tanks.

But if this place existed would you ever visit it? Invest in a low cost permanent site with even lower annual rent?

I was thinking I could separate the sites into 1/2 to 1 acre sites so that everyone has plenty of room to set up their stuff and the telescope or a dome for a permanent site. Nobody wants to feel crowded when observing the night sky. The first come first served sites would be a lot closer together.

#7 AlaskaIsCold

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 08:18 PM

Depending on the site that I pick (I've started looking at land plots) It would be something like 400-500 dollars for an acre site. Which is a lot I think. So that would be the initial cost for the permenant site. Then like ~10 bucks annual rent for property tax and to go for site improvements.

#8 DeanS

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 08:30 PM

Problem is you have to make money on full moon weekends as well. How do you mix different agenda campers? I looked at a place in Akransas that was a big 4 wheeler place but didn't see how it would ever mix well with laid back astro people.

Love the idea but it has to be able to pay the bills all year.

Dean

#9 George N

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 09:24 PM

There is such a thing already and it works: Cherry Springs State Park in PA. It's hard to believe, but the state has developed a park aimed at astronomy. It's also a International Dark Sky Gold-level park. Huge flat observing field, gravel roads, scope pads, AC power stands, and red lights in the bathroom. No access after dark.... red lights only enforced. State guided star parties most Saturday nights. Full moon weekends are for wildlife viewing.

There is a separate section for 'normal' camping. On dark weekends you can expect 100 people camping on the astronomy field and everything from APO refractor imaging rigs to 32-inch Dobs. There are also 3 empty domes with AC for rent.

See: web page

#10 AlaskaIsCold

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 10:00 PM

I'm still trying to look at costs and all that. I was actually looking at Cherry Springs for inspiration. The thing is that there really isn't anything in the area im looking at, I picked the are entirely on the basis that its in the darkest sky area and it is of moderate altitude. This place really is in the middle of nowhere (35mi on a dirt road to reach) The only real cost (once the land is purchased) is property tax.

Im not actually looking at "Making Money" as I want to make it a non-profit organization dedicated to showing people the night sky that couldn't normally see it. Education in astronomy and Dark sky awareness I want to have enough to just barely cover costs. and then I could have annual meetings with everyone that has a permanent stake in the campground could voice their concerns, and we could go over potential one time costs to improve the entire site.

Im currently in the process of looking at grants to help cut down the costs of such a campground.

#11 droid

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 08:12 AM

Chris: coool ,you finally made it in here. :grin:

Astronomy being what it is, a niche hobby, anf if I read you right this place will be as far away from citys, and humanity as possible (to assure really dark skys) youll get a few regulars who will show up regularly, will you re coop your investment??? , if you host star partys,youll get tons of people a couple times a year.
My guess would be ,youll meet some new people, attract a few folks who are local enough to make the trip semi regularly, and even make some life long astro buddies.
But the vast majority of us would not be able to make a trip cross country very often.

#12 droid

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 08:27 AM

Cherry springs was and is a phenominal place to observe from, been there twice.
And as I understand it, and I might be wrong, but the state already had it in theyre national park, so they didnt buy it.
And most of the electrical ,pads, etc were paid with tax dollars, not going political here just saying, and a lot of the land scaping etc was done with volunteer labor.
I think what Chris wants to do is buy the land . Install all the solar equipment, pads etc. Out of pocket, if not partly out of funds raised by selling sections of the property , its a huge undertaking.
I applaud him for idea.....and wish him well on this journey.
There aint no giant sized bugs that can drag you off in the night there is there? lol

#13 csa/montana

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 09:09 AM

The only real cost (once the land is purchased) is property tax.



I think the property tax would be the least of the real cost. You mentioned drilling a well. I don't know about in the area you are considering; but here the cost of drilling a well could easily hit $50,000. A septic system to handle multiple usage, could come to a staggering amount. Again, here for single usage, $30,000 is about average. Insurance would be another consideration; in case someone would get hurt on the property.

#14 DeanS

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 09:13 AM

Here is a link to a nice site that list camp grounds for sale by the region. I am on their email list and have found some interesting ones. Problem is that most are near some sort of entertainment or major highway so would not be best for our needs. But it will give you some ideas. They do not give specific locations but I have asked before and they will tell you.

The big cost I think would be the needed infrastructure such as electric, water, and sewer, which is why finding something already set up would be nice. And WiFi connection is important as well and might be difficult too far out in the boonies. These have been what appears to have slowed up Granite Gap so much.


http://www.parksandplaces.com/

Dean

#15 Spaced

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 01:56 PM

Chris, this is a terrific idea and you're hoping to place it in a location I could actually reach with a long day's drive.

I'm thinking a non-profit Co-Op set up would work.


Yes, it could but money's the rub. Most potential investors would want to see a highly detailed development plan, with predicted costs based on actual estimates tailored to the site. Costs for necessities can vary greatly, depending on location and idiosyncracies of particular sites. How far away is the nearest power? How deep must you drill for water? How long a road must be cut? How much surface site prep will be necessary (and possibly how much could you realize from timber sales)? What permits will be required and what will they cost? What are likely legal fees for entity creation, partnership agreements, sales contracts, etc.? After it opens, what will it cost annually for maintenance, insurance, taxes, etc., and among how many owners would those costs be spread? The good news is that in the SE Oregon hinterlands the basic cost of acreage might be quite low by urban/suburban standards.

If I were to consider an investment of this type, I would want to have those kinds of questions credibly answered, with very realistic cost estimates. I suspect most others would require the same.

But if this place existed would you ever visit it? Invest in a low cost permanent site with even lower annual rent?


I would certainly visit it. Personally, I probably wouldn't buy in to it but only because I already own some dark sky acreage.

I agree that $400 - $500 / acre sounds very (ridiculously?) high for acreage in a remote area in that part of the country. You might consider developing a relationship with a resident realtor who will search hard, watch listings and keep you informed. You'd probably want to make an initial trip to meet with the realtor and spend a day or two looking at property he/she thinks might meet your needs; one of the goals of such a meeting would be to educate the realtor about what you *really* want.

#16 _Z_

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 10:54 AM

New Mexico Skies is a place like this. They ran tons of electricity and fast internet connections to the site so that a significant amount of remote observatories could be set up. That provides constant income, and being remote, nobody minds that they're all fairly close together vs having 1 per acre like you're thinking.

They do rent domes and scopes, a friend flew out there, rented an 18" obsession, and had a great time.

http://www.nmskies.com/

#17 edwincjones

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 04:33 PM

I like the concept
-a NMSkies for campers
-a star party anytime convenient for my schedule
-a fee/night is much cheaper than building my own
-if someone puts in a Wal-Mart nextdoor, I can just go somewhere else
-great if you do it for me
but
-can you , or anyone, brake even with the cost**
-when does it become work, instead of fun, for you*

:question: :question:

*this may be the big negative in the concept
** I have gone to NMSkies, and StarHill Inn 3 times each;
really enjoyed the experience,
but most here seem to be not willing to pay the higher cost,
but maybe a campground will work better
edj

#18 AlaskaIsCold

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 01:56 AM

Well a week or so has gone by and i've been doing more research into the idea.
If I change it to a campground/star party site exclusively I can get away with a smaller minimum acreage needed. on top of that I could get away with around ten to twenty acres.

I could easily make small carports for a car and it could double as a surface for solar pannels.

Right now im trying to come up with a compromise between comfort and efficiency, as well as how to balance costs.

Really I have been trying to figure it out and it looks like property taxes is the most I need to worry about, since it would have pretty much nothing else.

#19 edwincjones

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 05:27 AM

if it is only a star party site,
it will only be open for the week around the new moon,
and only then when weather is ok

that limits income

I think the only way if for you is to build the site FOR YOU,
and invite guests/public to help with costs
or
expand for other uses

edj

#20 vsteblina

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 10:31 PM

My suggestions.

Stick it in Arizona. You will be full all winter.

Make it a RV campground with cabins for those without RV's.

Find other "science" attractions in the area. Bird watching and astronomy are good fits. You want more than astronomers for those full mooon nights.

Find an "environmental center" There are some of these on public land and piggy-back on their permit. I know a couple of sites in Arizona that would work rather well.

Be aware that it is VERY EXPENSIVE to develop facilities on public lands in most cases. Land is cheap....permits and environmental reviews are VERY EXPENSIVE. However, you could get lucky!!






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