By Christopher Ross, Addison Independent
The International Dark Sky Places (IDSP) Program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities, parks and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.
Applicants for Dark Sky certification must go through a rigorous application process, which can take years to complete and which the International Dark-Sky Association oversees. Just over 120 locales have earned the distinction, mostly in the United States.
There are currently no such locales in New England, but a couple of local groups — the Moosalamoo Association and Green Mountain Astronomers — hope to change that.
The Moosalamoo National Recreation Area (MNRA) consists of 16,000 acres within the Green Mountain National Forest and already provides a place of respite for the light-weary.
“We not only have open spaces and dark skies, but host two campgrounds, and over 70 miles of hiking trails,” said President of MNRA Angelo Lynn.
Goshen’s Blueberry Hill Inn, which is located within the MNRA, has expressed an interest in partnering with the MNRA to seek an IDSP designation.
Lynn envisions an outdoor recreation center where people can “meet, have hot chocolate on those colder winter nights, and discuss the skies we’re looking at.”
Excited by the work that’s happening at the Mittelman Observatory, Lynn has also approached Middlebury College about future collaborations.
“We could lead the state and region in cutting our light pollution (therefore cutting our carbon footprint) and re-learning to appreciate the night,” he said. “Too many of us are so unaccustomed to going out in the dark that we’ve become afraid of it, and that’s a cultural loss. We need to relearn how to embrace the night and enjoy its wonders, and hopefully this could be a small way to do that.”
A little farther south, the Green Mountain Astronomers (GMA) is also eyeing an official Dark Sky designation.
Earlier this year, four GMA members attended an astronomy convention at Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania, which is an official “Dark Sky Park,” explained GMA President Ronald Lewis.
“Coming back from that experience, it was my thought that we had darker skies right here in Vermont,” he said. So far the Dark Sky designation idea has been met with enthusiasm, he added.
So, “sometime in 2020, we’ll be pulling together our ideas, with help from the International Dark-Sky Association. I would imagine that the land area around the Hubbardton Battlefield would be the logical area for this designation.”