• DDOD Outreach
  • Why DDOD

Karen Cilevitz Leaves DDOD, Joins Town Council

(November 19, 2014)

On October 27th, 2014, Karen Cilevitz, founding member and Chair of the David Dunlap Observatory Defenders (DDOD), was elected to the Office of Councillor for Ward 5 in the Town of Richmond Hill.

As a result of her election and the necessity for her to now dedicate herself unencumbered to her new position, the DDOD Board of Directors somberly acknowledges Karen's resignation as DDOD Chair. The former Vice-Chair, Dr. Ian Shelton is now Chair and Dr. Wilhelm Bleek will serve as Vice-Chair. All other Board members will retain their positions as before.

Karen has been instrumental in establishing and moving the organization forward as a successful and much-respected community advocacy group. She tirelessly dedicated her time and effort as a volunteer since 2007 in defence of the natural, built, scientific and cultural heritage identities of the David Dunlap Observatory and surrounding lands. Her dedication and determination played a major role in the agreement that will now protect 111 acres of this pristine greenspace and have all the identified built heritage assets come into public ownership.

With this now accomplished, the DDOD will begin its transformation into a new organization to be known as "Friends of the David Dunlap Observatory Park". This group will function primarily as the public stakeholder for future-forward David Dunlap Observatory Park advocacy, public engagement and community Outreach. Details of the mandate, membership make-up and the new organization's intent and focus will be forthcoming in the near future.

Karen says: "I greatly look forward to my new role as Councillor and being involved in that capacity in all ongoing public efforts to ensure the successful establishment of Richmond Hill's new David Dunlap Observatory Park, a wonderful jewel in the crown of the Town's inventory of invaluable public parkland".

On behalf of us all, I wish to thank Karen for her remarkable leadership and vision.

--Ian Shelton - DDOD's New Chair & Resident Astronomer

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. The 190-acre oasis of mature forests, pastures and springs is 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 represents 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 the discovery 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 hundreds of houses.

The DDO Defenders have been working hard to represent the public and inform all levels of government about what will be lost if 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 in March 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 MetrusDevelopments Inc.), the Town 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 Town 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. (read more)

For further information or to offer support, please contact:

Ian Shelton - Chair, DDO Defenders Inc.
sn87a@hotmail.com or (905) 762-0072

The Minutes of Settlement is posted at the Town of Richmond Hill - DDO webpage.


Please support our Community Advocacy

The DDO Defenders are deeply committed to preserving the David Dunlap Observatory, 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 centre of excellence in public Outreach, Education and Experiential Learning regarding all aspects of Science and the Natural World.

Donating Online

Donating by Cheque or Money Order

Please make your cheque or money order payable to "DDO Defenders" and send it to:

DDO Defenders
240 Bantry Avenue
Richmond Hill, ON
Canada L4B 4H9.

Donating by Phone

Call us at (905) 762-0072