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Colorado Town’s International Dark Sky Community Designation a Reflection of Its Spiritual and Environmental Values

A stupa in the Baca Grande subdivision near Crestone, Colorado, stands to witness the nearing of the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 2020 marked by Earth's moon on the horizon. Photo by Peter Ismert.

In recognition of its exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of quality lighting policies, dark sky education and citizen support, the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) announced today that it has designated the Town of Crestone, Colorado, as an International Dark Sky Community.  The Town is only the 31st designated International Dark Sky Community worldwide and the fourth in Colorado.

“We are delighted to welcome Crestone, Colorado, into the family of IDA International Dark Sky Places,” said IDA Executive Director Ruskin Hartley. “Its situation and circumstances are key to long-term protection of dark skies in the San Luis Valley, Sangre de Cristo wilderness, and beyond, so we are excited by the possibilities that today represents.”

Situated in the world’s largest alpine valley at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, Crestone was established in 1880 as a mining town and today has an area population of about 2,200 residents. Known as a center of spiritual practice for people of many faiths, Crestone is surrounded by more than two dozen sacred landmarks and centers of world wisdom traditions. Its retreat centers attract over 30,000 retreatants and visitors annually. Crestone’s high elevation, low humidity and distance from Colorado’s major population centers combine to yield unusually clear views of the night sky.

Crestone Mayor Kairina Danforth led the initiative to accredit the town as an IDA International Dark Sky Community. With strong support from area residents and businesses, and the work of the Town Trustees serving as a Dark Sky Committee, results were continuing and significant.  Although the Town has regulated outdoor lighting since 2004, it recently updated its ordinance to meet current IDA certification requirements.

“All this time I believed this was a journey that ended with designation.  I now realize that this designation isn’t so much the end of a process as the beginning of a relationship with IDA and the broader dark-skies movement around the world,” commented Mayor Danforth.  “I look forward to the prospect of our town not only being welcomed into the IDA family but becoming a part of its future.

Crestone is the world’s first International Dark Sky Community to acknowledge the Rights of Nature.  Its deep commitment to the environment is evident from the 2018 adoption of its pioneering Rights of Nature Resolution, which states that the town officially recognizes “that nature, natural ecosystems, communities and all species possess intrinsic and inalienable rights which must be effectuated to protect life on Earth.”  The Resolution also acknowledges the deep spiritual connection between residents of Crestone and the natural world and embraces the community’s role as a steward of nature.

This commitment is evident in Crestone, from dark-sky-friendly lighting to astronomy outreach, awareness campaigns, and funding to help residents improve lighting on their properties.  All Crestone-owned lighting assets are now IDA compliant, as are its streetlights.

Care and concern for Crestone’s night skies make a difference in the lives of the people who call the town home, contributing meaningfully to their quality of life. Today’s announcement is an important milestone on Crestone’s continuing dark-sky journey, noted by many.

“The stars are what brought me here to Crestone and to its wonderful people,” said Scott Carlson, a Crestone resident who first came to the area in the mid-2000s. “Thank you, International Dark-Sky Association for the stellar work you are doing, for its impact on me and on the future preservation of Crestone’s dark sky.”