This June, Petrified Forest National Park was officially designated as an International Dark-Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). “Petrified Forest National Park is a fantastic place to see the stars at night,” said John Barentine, Director of Conservation for IDA. “Its ancient landscape reminds us that the need for nighttime darkness is nearly as old as life on Earth itself, and today the park leads the way forward in preservation of this crucial, but threatened, natural resource.”
Achieving official Dark Sky Park status is an extensive process, and park staff worked for years to gather and interpret night sky data, make lighting retrofits (while maintaining the character of historic buildings), meet all criteria for official IDA designation, and prepare the 100+ page application.
The park committed to achieving 100% dark-sky-compliant light fixtures within ten years, continued sky quality monitoring, and providing additional visitor opportunities for sky watching.
Construction will begin on a campground this summer at Chinde Point. Construction will be phased but by the early 2020s, camping is expected to be available in a dark-sky compliant campground. The park expects camping to be very popular.
“It took many in the Petrified Forest community to achieve this prestigious status,” says Jacob Holgerson, park ranger and author of the park’s application. “From every division within the park, our neighbors, partners, volunteers, and experts all aided in preserving our dark skies for future generations to enjoy.”
Special thanks go to Jacob for a job well done, to Randy Stanley (NPS Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division) and John Barentine for their assistance with the application, and also to Lori Rome of Capital Reef National Park, and James Greymountain, Bill Reitze, Nick Poulos, Kip Woolford, Richard Ullmann, and Kevin Dowell of the Petrified Forest staff, for their work in getting the park ready to apply.
In honor of its designation, Petrified Forest National Park will celebrate this fall with a star party, and valued partner Petrified Forest Field Institute is planning to ramp up its night-sky related programming.