Get a load of this: The area near where I live has been designated ad first Dark Sky Park in the Southeast.
By: International Dark-Sky Association (IDA)
The summer Milky Way above Blue Ridge Observatory & Star Park. Image credit: Todd Bush
Feb. 24, 2014 - The Appalachian Mountains of have stood as silent witnesses to the uninterrupted rain of starlight for nearly a half-billion years, but artificial light now threatens this nightly show. In honor of notable local efforts to preserve the natural nighttime landscape of North Carolina, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) announced today it has designated the first International Dark Sky Park in the southeastern United States.
In recognizing the Blue Ridge Observatory and Star Park, IDA is pleased to acknowledge the work of Mayland Community College (MCC) in preserving a threatened dark-sky location while advancing its educational mission and vision of bringing the experience of primeval night to locals and visitors alike.
"While it is one of the smaller parks in our program, we expect Blue Ridge Observatory and Star Park to make a big splash as a Silver-tier International Dark-Sky Park," said IDA Executive Director Bob Parks.
The Blue Ridge Observatory and Star Park is situated six miles west of Spruce Pine, North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The six-acre (2.4-hectare) site, surrounded by rugged mountain terrain and the Pisgah National Forest, is owned by Yancey County (NC) and managed by MCC. It is located on the same property as the EnergyXchange, a project in which methane waste gas emitted by an old landfill heats horticultural greenhouses and artists' studios.
Jon Wilmesherr, MCC Director of Learning Resources Center and Distance Education who led the effort to secure the IDA award, is optimistic that the Star Park will serve as a model for land management by colleges and universities. "I hope other educational institutions will consider the benefits of sponsoring an IDA star park, where the demonstration of lighting conservation can lead visitors to a better understanding of the urgent need for the preservation of the natural night sky," Wilmesherr said