Watoga State Park Officially Designated A Dark Sky Park

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has awarded Watoga State Park in West Virginia with the official Dark Sky Park status on October 18, 2021.  The adjacent Calvin Price State Forest and nearby Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park also jointly received Dark Sky Park designations as part of Watoga’s application due to their close proximity.   They are all managed by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

Watoga State Park will be the center of Dark Sky programming and activities for all three areas. Watoga, Cal Price, and Droop Mountain Battlefield encompass 19,869 acres of public land in Pocahontas County and are receiving the first official International Dark Sky Place designations in the state of West Virginia.

“We welcome Watoga State Park, Calvin Price State Forest, and Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park with open arms, as they now not only represent the state of West Virginia in our Dark Sky Places Program, but are also raising awareness for one of the largest and darkest skysheds within the eastern United States,” proclaimed Ruskin Hartley, IDA’s Executive Director.

In order to earn this international honor, the Watoga State Park Foundation’s (WSPF) Board approved the pursuit of IDA’s certification in 2018.  Board members Mary Dawson and Louanne Fatora obtained grant funding to cover the costs of light fixture replacement throughout the entire park.  They then engaged volunteer astronomers to take measurements of the quality of their night skies over the course of a full year, held several educational dark sky events, and engaged in a collaborative effort with community partners.

“Watoga State Park Foundation is happy to have been instrumental in the pursuit of the recently approved Dark Sky Park certifications for Watoga State Park, Cal Price State Forest and Droop Mountain Battlefield,” stated John Goodwin, President, Watoga State Park Foundation. “Due to the diligence of two WSPF board members, our many sensitive animal species will live and thrive in their accustomed darkness just as their ancestors did, free from artificial light pollution.  Watoga State Park now offers many new educational programs for its guests.  Many new opportunities now exist to study the heavens, nocturnal creatures and the newly discovered synchronous fireflies.  This is a new and exciting time for the park and visitors.  Not only can the park offer activities during the day, but now they can offer activities at night.”

Watoga State Park Foundation and Park staff would like to thank the many individuals and organizations who supported the application for the Dark Sky Park designation.

The IDA established the International Dark Sky Places (IDSP) conservation program in 2001 to recognize excellent stewardship of the night sky. Designations are based on the quality of the night skies, stringent outdoor lighting standards, and innovative community outreach. Since the program began, more than 180 Dark Sky Parks, Reserves, Sanctuaries, Communities, Urban Night Sky Places, and Dark Sky Friendly Developments have received International Dark Sky Place designations.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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