Dark Skies: Parks give astronomers a boost | News, Sports, Jobs

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Visitors flock to West Virginia in search of many treasures, but one we don’t often think of is that our remote, pristine areas lend themselves to a light pollution escape. For scientists and astronomers, it is precious and rare in this country.

Today Watoga State Park in Pocahontas County is recognized for its efforts to tackle light pollution. It has been recognized as Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. The designation also includes Calvin Price State Forest and Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park.

According to a report by West Virginia Public Broadcasting, the park’s foundation board of directors has been working to achieve this designation. Since 2018, the group has replaced 150 outdoor light fixtures, installed telescopes, and added stargazing events as well as educational events about wildlife that benefits from a dark sky environment.

Watoga and surrounding parks “Not only represent the state of West Virginia in our Dark Sky Parks program, but also raise awareness of one of the largest and darkest skysheds in the eastern United States,”said Ruskin Hartley, director of the International Dark Sky Association.

This is of course not the only place in the state with such potential. The Calhoun County Park Board of Directors is also working towards achieving the Dark Sky Park designation.

Watoga State Park Foundation Board Chairman John Goodwin said “Many new opportunities now exist for studying the heavens and the nocturnal creatures. It is a new and exciting time for the park and its visitors. Not only can the park offer activities during the day, but it can now offer activities at night.

Kudos to those who will help bring new visitors to West Virginia because they were aiming for the stars.

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