Tuesday, June 22, 2021
We Got the Dark Sky Reserve-Now the Real Work Begins
Ketchum Mayor Nina Jonas, standing next to the giant light switch, noted that the drive to become America’s first dark sky reserve has brought a lot of attention to the Sun Valley area from publications like the New York Times and Washington Post.
Saturday, December 23, 2017


A sliver of moon hung over Bald Mountain in a cloudless sky. And Dr. Stephen Pauley’s wife Marilyn, whom he had married 55 years ago on the Winter Solstice, was standing in the crowd beaming at him.

But, as Pauley flipped the switch on a 4-foot tall light switch turning off the Christmas lights around Ketchum Town Square, the unthinkable happened. And Pauley was left speechless.

“I can’t see a single star!” he said.

Char Roth was among those serving up hors d’oeuvres to the star-dazed crowd.

Within seconds, members of the crowd  that had shown up to celebrate Central Idaho’s designation as the  first Dark Sky Reserve in North America came to his rescue, pointing out a star hanging in the northern sky.

And the star party was back on track.

A couple hundred people turned out on Thursday—the longest night of the year—to celebrate the new Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve and Ketchum’s recent designation as North America’s 16th Dark Sky Community.

Craters of the Moon National Park was also designated a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association earlier this year.

Dr. Stephen Pauley accepted attaboys from dozens of well-wishers.

The stargazers enjoyed free cider cocktails served up by Warfield Distillery, wine and beer and Smoky Mountain Pizza slices and spring rolls—all furnished by Pauley, according to Ketchum Mayor Nina Jonas.

There were even Milky Way bars, in keeping with the theme of the evening.

The new dark sky reserve encompasses a 1,400-square-mile-an area bigger than the state of Rhode Island. And it includes the cities of Stanley, Sun Valley and Ketchum, as well as the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in between.

SNRA Ranger Kirk Flannigan said the designation is the first for a national forest.

This map shows the area that will be part of the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve.

“It’s a perfect fit, considering our mission is about protection and preservation,” he added.

Pauley, who took the microphone to the chants of “Dr. Dark,” noted that some of the kids in the audience were “just a glimmer in a far corner of the universe when he first started prodding local officials to enact ordinances to protect Sun Valley’s dark skies 18 years ago.

Tory Canfield, who was the city planner for Ketchum then, wrote the first. That ordinance was followed by ordinances for Hailey, Bellevue, Blaine County and Sun Valley.

The dark sky application submitted to the International Dark-Sky Association was “a masterpiece, as good as a master thesis,” he added.

“I hope the designation will serve as a reminder for people to look up, rather than down at their iPhone,” he said. “If we don’t look at the stars, we don’t know who we are.”

Terri Bullock, who was among those in the crowd, moved to the Wood River Valley from Vancouver, Wash., more than two years ago. She was immediately astounded at the view of the Milky Way and shooting stars she was able to see from her bedroom window.

“I’m totally for the dark sky,” she said. “If you think about all the pollution from lights across the globe, we’re in a unique echelon where we can see things no one else can.”

“Stars! Stars! I love being able to walk outside and seeing Orion,” said Char Roth.

Dani Mazzoti, who led the effort to get the dark sky reserve designation on behalf of the Idaho Conservation League, told how she had given birth to a son named Jackson—already nicknamed “Stardust” by Pauley—six weeks earlier.

“It’s so special that he will have this forever,” she said. “It took a village to get it done. I feel so happy to see the community come together and support the dark sky.”

The work doesn’t end with the designation, she noted. The future could include a festival, featuring a dark sky symphony. It will also involve teaching school children about the night sky, providing star guides for hotel guests and educating the community about environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.

Proponents hope to raise $10,000 through a crowd funding page. A group of dark sky enthusiasts are offering to match every dollar that’s contributed up to a maximum total of $20,000 over the next 15 days.

Donations will go to educational materials for school groups, a traveling educational exhibit for local events, sky quality light meters for research and demonstrations, training volunteers to provide programs and dark sky celebrations.

The donations would also be used to distribute dark sky-friendly light bulbs for change-out programs, create star guides for local hotels and visitor centers, establish stargazing points along the Highway 75 corridor with wayside interpretive signs and update the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve website.

To learn more,  go to https://idahodarksky.causevox.com/. Or, visit https://www.facebook.com/IdahoConservationLeague/posts/10156026318009630.


The International Dark-Sky Association, based in Tucson, Ariz., offers these suggestions for environmentally responsible outdoor lighting:

  • Light only what you need.
  • Use energy-efficient bulbs and only as bright as you need.
  • Shield lights, directing them downwards.
  • Use light only when you need it and consider automatic timer.
  • Choose warm white light bulbs.

For more information, visit www.darksky.org.


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