Bainbridge astronomers seek funding for sundial

The Battle Point Astronomical Association (BPAA) has been working for many years on a plan to build a sundial next to its Edwin Ritchie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island.

“It has been in the master plan for the organization almost since the get-go,” says Frank Petrie, a BPAA member since 1996 who is part of the sundial committee. The sundial would be built on a berm north of the association’s observatory and would be visible throughout much of the busy park.

Sundial model

BPAA members, with artist Bill Baran-Mickle at the center, pose with a model of the proposed sundial. BPAA photo.

The project took a major leap toward reality with the launching of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign earlier this month. Petrie says the aim of the campaign is to raise the $17,000 they need to fully fund the sundial.

The budget for the spectacular, 12-foot-tall, bronze-clad steel equatorial bowstring sundial, designed by Bainbridge metalsmith Bill Baran-Mickle, is $30,000. BPAA has collected about $13,000 toward the project over the years from the donation jar at their monthly planetarium shows and community events, a pledge from its board, and recent grants from the Bainbridge Island Metro Park and Recreation District and the Bainbridge Community Foundation. The latter, Petrie says, indicated to BPAA that there was widespread community interest in the sundial.

“There’s interest in this project coming from the arts community as well,” he says, because of the renown of Baran-Mickle and the desire for more public art at Battle Point.

Woody Sullivan, a University of Washington astronomy professor also known as “Mr. Sundial,” makes a pitch for the project in the BPAA’s video on Indiegogo.

“Sundials connect you with the cosmos,” Sullivan says in the video. “They connect you with a more natural kind of time than a digital, flashing watch. They tend to slow you down, also, which is something I think we need in our 21st Century iPhone existence.”

Petrie says the sundial is a first step in BPAA’s ambitious vision for its astronomy programs at Battle Point Park.

“Our hope is to build an astronomy-related complex around our observatory in Battle Point Park,” he explains. “We have a number of features that we’d like to incorporate, and the sundial is one of those features.”

Another is an adjacent building for BPAA’s planetarium. Monthly planetarium shows are presently wedged into the Helix House, which also houses the observatory. But the space is small and cramped, and typically far more interested people show up than can be accomodated, forcing many to wait for a second show, or miss out.

“It’s been very, very popular, and that tells us that our long-term plan to expand is a good one,” Petrie says.

The popularity is well-deserved; BPAA puts on a good show. Seattle Astronomy recommends them highly.

Petrie calls the BPAA and its facilities “a little jewel” and says he loves the organization’s commitment to its mission.

“It’s dedicated to public outreach and getting folks interested in science,” he says. “We like to share the excitement that we have about science in general and astronomy in particular, and hope that we can reach as many folks as possible and get them excited as well.”

You can help share the excitement by contributing to BPAA’s Indiegogo campaign for the sundial.