Dark Sky Park at Watoga Park and Light Pollution Overview
This is the first of a three-part series about a unique resource of Pocahontas County -its beautiful night skys -unblemished by artificial lights. And about the threat posed by light pollution not only on those great night sky views, but also on several species that reside here.
Here in Part one, Mary Dawson of the Watoga State Park Foundation enlightens us about Watoga Park’s efforts to become a Dark Sky Park and provides an overview of the effects of light pollution.
“The plentiful natural resources of West Virginia are obvious to anyone who has been to the state” Dawson said. “The state’s fishing streams, whitewater rivers, lakes, skiing areas, and mountain biking and hiking trails attract visitors from around the world. However, one natural resource the state can claim may not be so obvious; that is, until the sun goes down. The state’s low levels of light pollution provide extremely clear dark night skies, particularly in the more scarcely populated areas of the state. Watoga State Park, located in a rural area of Pocahontas County, WV, is attempting to take advantage of its dark sky resource by applying to become a Dark Sky Park, as designated by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).”
“In order to be approved, Watoga State Park must demonstrate that it provides a clear and suitably dark night sky to its visitors while also taking steps to reduce the amount of light pollution the park produces. The International Dark-Sky Association defines light pollution as the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light. Light pollution is most obvious in urban areas where lighting in public spaces, industrial areas, or around residences or roadways obscures visibility of the night sky. However, light pollution can occur anywhere.”
“According to the International Dark-Sky Association, there are 5 ways in which light pollution negatively effects the planet. Firstly, light pollution can have devastating effects on wildlife, as many plants and animals are dependent on a clear light and dark cycle to govern their behavior. Similarly, studies have suggested that light pollution is harmful to humans through increased risks of obesity, sleep disorders, depression, and more. Furthermore, according to the IDA, there has been no clear scientific confirmation that an increase of outdoor lighting results in a decrease in automobile accidents or crime. Also, this excess of outdoor lighting costs energy and money to produce. Finally, light pollution obscures the full wonder of the night sky and the stars, constellations, and planets that have inspired humans for centuries.”
“Thankfully, light pollution can be reversed through three simple principles: reduce, direct, and limit. By reducing outdoor lighting to only that which is absolutely necessary, directing that lighting exclusively at what is to be illuminated, and limiting the amount of time outdoor lights are active through the use of timers or motion sensors, light pollution can be eliminated.”
“The dark sky resource of West Virginia attracts astronomers, photographers, and stargazers to the rural areas of the state, while also enriching the experiences of countless campers, hikers, and others. As urban areas of the country continue to develop, maintaining and taking advantage of West Virginia’s dark skies can only benefit the state and the country into the future.”
Stay tuned to Allegheny Mountain Radio for part two of this series, in which Megan Dister, an AmeriCorps Volunteer assigned to the Mon Forest’s Marlinton-White Sulphur Springs District talks to us about the threat light pollution poses to bats.