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With summer kicking into high-gear in most parts of the country (well, sort of) now is a good time to start planning some outdoor activities for some of those warm nights ahead.
Well, luckily for you, The International Dark-Sky Association, a group formed in 2001 that recognizes Dark Sky Parks around the world has just named three new locations in the Western US as extraordinary spots for stargazing.
The association defines an official Dark Sky Park as “publicly- or privately-owned spaces protected for natural conservation that implement good outdoor lighting and provide dark sky programs for visitors.”
The new parks in the US include the Tonto National Monument outside of Phoenix, Arizona, which was named on May 7, Dinosaur National Monument, which sits on the Utah-Colorado border and was recognized on April 22 — and, most recently, The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in southern Colorado, which received its classification Thursday, May 9, as the third-ever destination in the US to be named an International Dark Sky Park within the span of a month.
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Congratulations to Colorado’s @greatsanddunesnps for their designation as an International Dark Sky Park! #GreatSandDunes has a long history of conservation, going back to 1932 when it was established to protect the tallest dunes in North America. “A starlit night at Great Sand Dunes can bring opportunities for wonder, perspective, and a more intimate connection with the natural world than we have in the daytime,” says park ranger Patrick Myers. Check the link in bio for more info! 📸: NPS/Patrick Myers. #darksky #idadarksky #findyourpark #nightsky #parkafterdark #halftheparkisafterdark #darkskypark
“It’s no surprise that Great Sand Dunes has been building a reputation for good night sky viewing,” says Great Sand Dunes Superintendent Pamela Rice in a press release. “The dry air, high elevation, and lack of light pollution all make the park an ideal dark-sky destination. We are thrilled with receiving this recognition as an International Dark Sky Park.”
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Great Sand Dunes has long been a stargazing spot for locals in the area due in part to the Sangre de Cristo mountains shielding the light pollution from cities along Colorado’s Front Range. Park officials, excited by their new partnership with The International Dark-Sky Association, are planning on celebrating the news with a ceremony later this summer. Details will be announced via the park website sometime soon.
“Great Sand Dunes has some of the darkest skies measured in the West,” says Rice. “We invite you to come out and experience this treasure for yourself.”
To find a Dark Sky Park near you to do some sky gazing, check out the International Dark-Sky Association’s interactive map.
Featured image by Matt Payne of Durango, Colorado via Getty Images.
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