Oracle State Park gains international 'Dark Sky' status - Tucson News Now

Oracle State Park gains international 'Dark Sky' status

Oracle State Park (Source: http://www.darksky.org/) Oracle State Park (Source: http://www.darksky.org/)
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -  The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) named the 4,000 acre park an International Dark Sky Park, at the 'silver' quality level.  Oracle State Park is the first in the Arizona system to receive this recognition. The park, which sits between Tucson and Phoenix will have its dark skies preserved for generations to come.  

Dark Sky designation means 'a park or other public land possessing exceptional starry skies and natural nocturnal habitat where light pollution is mitigated and natural darkness is valuable as an important educational, cultural, scenic, and natural resources.'  The IDA works to make the public aware of 'light pollution' and how valuable the night sky is.  

Light pollution comes from lighting that is aimed horizontally or upward and is unshielded, brighter than it needs to be and/or shines beyond where and when it is needed, according to officials with IDA. Light pollution not only impacts the science of astronomy (an important business in Arizona), but can cause documented negative impacts on wildlife, the environment and human health, as well as costing $2 billion a year in unnecessary energy costs in the U.S. 

The IDA designates the quality of night skies in three tiers. Gold represents the highest award representing the darkest skies, followed by the Silver and Bronze designations. The Silver designation means there are three Point light sources and glary lights do not dominate nighttime scene. In addition, brighter sky phenomena can be regularly viewed, with fainter ones sometimes visible, and the Milky Way is visible in summer and winter.

Park Manager Steve Haas said in a recent release, "The International Dark Sky Park Silver designation fits extremely well with the mission and goals of Oracle State Park as a Center for Environmental Education."

This coveted designation owes much to the efforts of the Oracle Dark Skies Committee (ODSC), whose members include Oracle-area residents, members of the Friends of Oracle State Park, and State Park Rangers. Michael Weasner, a retired former U.S. Air Force pilot and aerospace industry manager, chairs the group and spearheaded the effort to obtain the IDA recognition.

"Oracle is proud to have its State Park receive this important designation to help preserve Arizona's natural resources. The Oracle Dark Skies Committee worked hard to complete the necessary tasks and documentation in record time and is thrilled that Oracle State Park has received the designation," said Weasner.

The Arizona State Parks department plans to give high priority to dark skies at its 30 State Parks and Natural Areas, and applying lessons learned in the Oracle application toward the goal of many more IDA designations in Arizona.

Executive Director Bryan Martyn said in a recent release, "Arizona State Parks' conservation efforts are an important part of the agency's mission. We are excited to have Oracle State Park designated as a dark sky park and hope to see many more parks added."

IDA established the International Dark Sky Places conservation program in 2001 to recognize excellent stewardship of the night sky. Designations are based on stringent outdoor lighting standards and innovative community outreach. Since the program began, eight Communities, 20 Parks and nine Reserves have received International Dark Sky designations. For more information about the International Dark Sky Places Program, visit http://www.darksky.org/international-dark-sky-places/about-ids-places.

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