What Is an International Dark Sky Park — Does Colorado Have One?
Given our region, we should have one or two at least.
It's that time of year when we spend more time outdoors than we do indoors. Well, unless you're me then you tend to cling to your air conditioning. But I do love being outside in the sun during the cool hours of the morning or evening.
This is also the time of year that most people love to camp. Although it's been years since I pitched a tent, I do love seeing a night sky in the summer. The clear sky makes it feel like the sky goes on forever and ever. You feel so small looking up at this vast space, but it's more of a feeling of wonderment rather than inadequacy.
Recently I learned about an organization that is working to protect those expansive dark skies. It's the International Dark-Sky Association. See, you only get a grand night sky if there isn't too much light noise around you. The lights from city skylines and highly populated areas can prevent you from seeing every little star in the night sky. You need a dark sky to see it all.
Which is where the International Dark-Sky Association comes in.
They designate land that has "exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment." Their mission is to protect that land and sky for many reasons including research, education, heritage, and even just personal enjoyment. Sound familiar? It's the same concept used for National and State Park designations.
So, does Colorado have a park like this?
There are actually a few of these parks across our state. The closest one to us is just outside of Colorado Springs. It's Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
The International Dark-Sky Association also has designated Communities, Reserves, Sanctuaries, and other Developments of Distinction. Each one has it's own specifications as to why they've been characterized as such. Needless to say, if you are looking for a brilliant display in a dark night sky, you should choose one of these places.