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Lookout Pursues Dark Skies Designation

HARKERS ISLAND — Rolling into the New Year, officials at Cape Lookout National Seashore, in conjunction with the Crystal Coast Stargazers Club, will pursue the park’s designation as an International Dark Sky Park.

This designation from the International Dark Sky Association, or IDSA, is a process that involves planning and documenting the exceptional starry nights and the nocturnal environment that is preserved and protected for public enjoyment.

“The economic and recreational opportunities for the local community and visitors to our region will benefit in a number of ways,” said Chief of Interpretation and Education B.G. Horvat. “Plus, when you have the milky way visible above, that’s a cool resource not only to behold, but an awesome responsibility worthy of preservation for future generations to enjoy.”

The Crystal Coast Stargazers Club is a Carteret County-based organization of over 50 amateur stargazers and astrophotographers.

“Our group is excited about working for Cape Lookout National Seashore’s certification. We already offer outreach programs for the public at Cape Lookout, and we look forward to expanding those offerings and increasing public events under the beautiful dark skies!” said Davis Heflin, the Crystal Coast Stargazers Club Coordinator.

Currently, there are more than 80 dark sky parks across the United States, with only one designated park in North Carolina, the Mayland Earth to Sky Park & Bare Dark Sky Observatory in Spruce Pines.

International Dark Sky Park certification promotes public education and astronomy-based recreation in parks, while improving energy efficiency and reduced operational costs through outdoor lighting upgrades that create economic opportunities for neighboring communities through astronomy-based tourism.

The application process takes about a year, and involves inventory and planning for lightscape management with the park, garnering support from the local community and other government agencies to conserve dark skies throughout the area, while providing the IDSA with brightness measurements and night images from various areas of the national seashore.

A view of the Milky Way above Cape Lookout National Seashore’s Harkers Island Visitor Center. Photo: Bob Decker