The DDO Defenders is a non-profit volunteer organization, deeply committed to preserving the David Dunlap Observatory (DDO), surrounding lands and the Dunlap legacy. Our mandate is to ensure that the campus continues to operate as a world-class astronomical and astrophysical research facility and a center of excellence in public outreach, education and experiential learning regarding all aspects of science and the natural world.
About the David Dunlap Observatory
The David Dunlap Observatory lies nestled in the heart of Richmond Hill, Ontario, a city of 200,000 just north of Canada’s largest city, Toronto. In 2007, the 190-acre oasis of mature forests, pastures and springs was home to two distinct deer herds and an abundance of other wildlife, including a coyote pack, foxes, voles, rabbits, honey bees, many species of butterflies, and birds including hawks, owls, doves, crows and songbirds. The property represented the last and largest urban open green space in southern Richmond Hill.
Originally deeded to the University of Toronto by the philanthropist Jessie Donalda Dunlap in memory of her husband David, the Dunlap Observatory opened on May 31st, 1935. Its magnificent 74-inch telescope was the second largest in the world at that time and has been used through seven decades to conduct much groundbreaking research, including proving the existence of the first known black hole, Cygnus X-1.
In 2007, the University of Toronto wrested control of the land from Jessie Dunlap’s heirs through a protracted legal case spanning 4 years. They then broke the public covenant that the land would remain a park and a research and outreach centre in perpetuity by selling the property to a developer intent on replacing most of the greenspace with many hundreds of houses.
The DDO Defenders have been working hard since 2007 to represent the public and inform all levels of government about what would and now has been lost as the developer is allowed to proceed.
On April 12th, 2012, after six long and anxiety-ridden months of Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) mandated mediation following a four year hard-fought and very public battle, an agreement was reached between the mediation parties to the David Dunlap Observatory Lands OMB case.
Minutes of Settlement were drawn up for signing by all parties to the mediation — the landowner Corsica Development Inc. (a subsidiary of Metrus Developments Inc., now known as ‘DG Group’), the City of Richmond Hill, the Region of York, the Toronto and Area Conservation Authority (TRCA), and the David Dunlap Observatory Defenders (DDO Defenders) Inc.. This historic document was ratified by Richmond Hill City Council on Thursday, April 12th. All mediation parties had been sworn to absolute secrecy under a strict gag order until Council signed off on the agreement, but now the silence has finally been broken and the details of the settlement agreement can be made public.
Looking to the Future
The DDO Defenders are now honored to be providing programming at the David Dunlap Observatory in partnership with the City of Richmond Hill. We look towards a future of excellent public outreach, education and experiential learning regarding all aspects of science and the natural world, especially astronomy. We aim to preserve the DDO as a center of knowledge and curiosity for many years to come.
We continue to aspire to maintain the world-class status of the David Dunlap Observatory, and have aspirations to return astronomical and astrophysical research to the facility.