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B&A Trail will host Planet Museum of solar system

The Planet Walk will shrink our 3.7 billion mile solar system down to 4.6 miles

From Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails

Map of Maryland NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center has joined with the Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails to create a project that will enable the County's residents to stroll, bike, or rollerblade through the solar system. The two groups will work together in a partnership to complete the Friends Planet Walk, a linear art gallery and unique educational exhibit of our solar system. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory Project Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) Office will be completing the educational graphics, digitizing and signage for this incredible project.
photo of sun sculpture
The Sun Station along the trail in Glen Burnie

"We are thrilled to have NASA on board and join in partnership with Friends on this project," said Stan Lebar, manager of the Planet Walk for the Friends. Lebar has spearheaded the Planet Walk project since it's inception five years ago. Mr. Lebar, retired from Westinghouse managed the Apollo 11 Lunar TV Camera program used by Neil Armstrong to record that memorable first walk on the moon.

"With NASA's support" says Lebar, "we can realize a World Class exhibit on the Baltimore Annapolis Trail Park that will bring the wonders of our Solar System to our young students and our residents of every age to enjoy." The Planet Walk will shrink our 3.7 billion mile solar system down to 4.6 miles and place the sun and all the planets on the B&A Trail keeping the distance between the planets and sun in perspective.

The Planet Walk program benefited during the conceptual stage by the receipt of a grant from the

"One-of-a-kind art sculptures will be created for each planet."

Maryland Department of Transportation that allowed the Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails to hire a resident artist and to move forward in creating the final Planet Walk configuration as well as introducing and incorporating the educational concept within the Planet Walk design.

The Planet Walk also benefited significantly with the support of other commercial and public entities as both sponsors and partnerships donating their services to the Friends. Much of the work for the project is done by volunteers who provide their time and expertise helping to make this program such a huge success. The Planet Walk project, when completed, will have an estimated value of between $1 and $1.5 million as well as being a unique community exhibit and State and County tourist attraction for those of all ages to enjoy.

Photo: The Sun under construction  
The Sun under construction

NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory Satellite Educational Outreach Office is collaborating with Dr. Stephen Ailstock, Director of the Science Department at Anne Arundel Community College and member of the Planet Walk Design Management Team. Dr. Ailstock is directing the educational aspect of the Planet Walk by aiding in the creation of the educational storyboard. The prime intent of this project is the enhancement of the trail, one of the Friend's mission statements. Another important aspect is education. The futuristic, creative digital presentations and graphic displays are directed towards students and will entail multiple disciplines including science, mathematics, astronomy, physics and more.

"All the designs, the location and the exhibits of the Planet Walk are directed towards students," said Dr. Ailstock, Planet Walk Director of Education. The site is designed to accommodate half-day school field trips and the location is readily accessible to the citizens of Anne Arundel County. Over half of the residents in the County live within 2 miles of the B&A Trail where the Planet walk will be located. A companion website, under the direction of Dr. Ailstock, in consultation with NASA is also under development. The website will provide lesson plans, assessments and educational information for educators.

photo of sun sculpture
The Pluto sculpture was installed in July 2005

Overseeing design aspects of the Planet Walk is landscape architect Romaine Kesecker, ASLA. Kesecker is also a Friends Board of Director's member. Kesecker is coordinating the site design for each of the stations as well as overseeing the activity of the artist. He is also employed by URS Corporation, which, says Kesecker, "is very generously providing the structural engineering services to convert the artist's concepts to blueprints and certifying them in order to obtain the required construction permits."

While other Planet Walks exist, the approach taken by the Friends is to create a distinctive exhibit. Each station in the exhibit is unique in shape, size and concept. Each station will contain a full complement of educational displays relevant to, and centering around a one-of-a-kind art sculpture for that planet. In order to accomplish this, Friends sent out a call for artists. That's how they discovered Judy Sutton Moore. Ms. Moore was unanimously chosen by the Friends to complete the artwork due to her extensive portfolio of large outdoor exhibits.

The Sun station, the first exhibit to be completed for the Planet Walk, will break ground early this spring on property donated by the Manekin Corporation adjacent to the B&A trail, just behind Harandale Plaza in Glen Burnie. The stainless steel sculpture rises 24 feet and is topped by a 10 foot sphere comprised of 9 stainless steel circles, each representing one of the planet's orbits. Inside the rings are 48 large acrylic prisms. The prisms will cast showers of rainbows on the landscaped gardens and pathways surrounding the sculpture.

The sculpture adds the active ingredient of demonstrating the sun's role in providing our world with colors. Included in the landscaping surrounding the site is brickwork paving depicting our spiral galaxy and nine planet gardens as well as the educational graphics and text about the sun. The sculpture is being fabricated in Hagerstown Maryland and will be moved to the site for installation planned for late June of this year.

In addition to the Sun station, the Friends are completing a station for each of the other planets. The second station to be completed will be Pluto at the far end of our solar system. The Pluto station will be located near the Earleigh Heights Ranger Station on the B&A Trail. Like the Sun Station, the location allows for parking and restrooms. Saturn, which will be located at Marley Mall, is planned to be a small amphitheater with the planet as the stage backdrop. The rings of Saturn will be incorporated into the amphitheater and the area surrounding the structure.

Friends has already involved Maryland Department of Transportation, Manekin Corporation NASA/Goddard, URS Corporation, Anne Arundel County, Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks, BGE and Eagle Scouts as well as others on this project. "This wonderfully unique and multifaceted project is extraordinarily exciting," said Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens. "Planet Walk will provide countless educational and leisure opportunities to our citizens, especially our young people. We need to thank the Friend's of Anne Arundel County Trails for their hard work and dedication, and NASA for elevating this worthwhile project."


The staff and the members of the Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails are proud to announce the sculpture for the Pluto Station of the Planet Walk was successfully installed in July 2005. The Pluto sculpture joins the Sun Stations "Spectrum," which was successfully installed last year. The final site design for Pluto will be complete within a few weeks with site amenities and interpretive displays in place by fall of 2005. Next for the Planet walk is the Inner Planet Project, the installation of the art for Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars with sites and displays to follow in the spring of 06.

To become involved in this project, become a member of Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails or to get more information Contact Elizabeth Wyble, President of Friends of AA trails at 410-647- 6621 or David Greene, Vice President at 410-923-1437.

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