Recently elected ward 5 councillor begins her leadership transition
By Todd Aalgaard
Karen Cilevitz passes her leadership responsibilities to Dr. Ian Shelton (2012)
Astronomy fans and appreciators of public space in Richmond Hill are planning their next steps, with news that the David Dunlap Observatory Defenders has had a shakeup in leadership.
Chalk it up to old-fashioned tenacity, perhaps. Led until recently by Karen Cilevitz — freshly elected as councillor for Richmond Hill’s Ward 5, a post previously held by Nick Papa — the David Dunlap Observatory Defenders, established six years ago by Cilevitz and others, has had one goal in mind: the preservation of the David Dunlap Observatory and its surrounding parklands.
The University of Toronto sold it to Corsica Developments Incorporated in 2008. With a landmark victory following many long, agonizing years of heritage hearings and provincial petitioning, 111 acres of green space was ultimately saved, with it mutually agreed that the site’s heritage locations should be transitioned to public ownership.
“This is a most heartfelt, bittersweet moment for me.”
So with all this behind the David Dunlap Observatory Defenders and with the results from the recent municipal election, change is afoot for the organization that is now regrouping under new leadership.
“This is a most heartfelt, bittersweet moment for me,” Cilevitz recently said, noting the work that she and other members of the observatory defenders had been mutually involved with since 2008. “My position as chair of this remarkable organization has, without doubt, been one of my most meaningful achievements.”
Now, as councillor, Cilevitz finds herself on the opposite end of the spectrum — facilitating public advocacy rather than spearheading it. But facing this transition, she told Post City, with the selection of astronomer Dr. Ian Shelton as the David Dunlap Observatory Defenders’ new chairperson, she has nothing but confidence for both the organization’s and Richmond Hill’s future.
After all, she said, the observatory grounds — proposed as the new David Dunlap Observatory Park — are part of Richmond Hill’s backyard, and Shelton is the man to help make it a reality.
“On behalf of [David Dunlap Observatory Defenders],” Shelton said, “I wish to thank Karen for her remarkable leadership and vision.” Starting now, he said, begins the transition of the group into a new organization, called Friends of the David Dunlap Observatory Park.
A new community centre has taken over a now decommissioned St. Luke Catholic Learning Centre. Members of the community around Yonge Street north of Steeles can expect art exhibits, dinners, music shows and summer job fairs for youth, as well as use of the building’s amenities, including the gym and meeting rooms.