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International Dark Sky Places Program Advocacy

View of Milky Way over mountains.
 Credit: iStock

A Review of 2023 Annual Reports

An International Dark Sky Place (IDSP) aims to encourage communities and protected areas to become environmental leaders by communicating the importance of dark skies to the public and providing an example of what is possible with proper stewardship.

Depending on the location, resources, experience, and knowledge of staff and volunteers, International Dark Sky Places are committed to providing engaging outreach and education every year. These diverse events and actions incorporate values such as astronomy, wildlife, energy efficiency, safety, and human health.

2023 was a year of tremendous growth for the IDSP program, with the addition of 20 newly certified Places. These new Places put the program over the 200 mark of worldwide certifications, and this progress is not slowing down, as the 2023 IDSP annual reports indicate. 

While light pollution continues to grow worldwide at an alarming rate, we are encouraged by the number of Places interested in becoming certified to show their commitment to combating light pollution and protecting dark skies on every continent. Last year’s Places showed how much progress has been made in lighting retrofits, outreach and education, and environmental conservation. With more Places to come this year, we know that dark sky advocates will not rest until we have reclaimed the precious night sky.

Annual Reports for all certified Places are available on each Place’s webpage. While it is impossible to publicize all of their hard work in a short blog, we can showcase a selection of our advocates’ work that exemplifies the program’s goals and mission and embodies the core values of DarkSky International and the global dark-sky movement.

Follow the links below to learn more about these sites and discover creative ways to celebrate, support, and protect our dark skies.


Presentation of information to the public in creative and engaging ways:

Park bus at Zion National Park, Utah (U.S.) Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park (United Kingdom)
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Northumberland’s International Dark Skies Park designation in 2013, the National Park Authority commissioned a captivating new exhibition and supporting program titled “Dark Skies Matter,” which was launched in December and will run until International Dark Sky Week in April 2024.

The main focus of the festivities revolves around ‘Noctalgia: Dark Skies Matter,’ a groundbreaking exhibition and program that is captivating audiences far and wide. Commissioned by the Northumberland National Park Authority and generously supported by the Sir James Knott Trust, this innovative exhibition was created by visual artist Bethan Maddocks in collaboration with community groups and visitors through creative activities and workshops. 2023 Annual Report.

Zion National Park, Utah (United States)
During 2023, Zion National Park began to phase out their old shuttle buses with a new electric fleet. Out of several designs on the new buses, one is centered around dark sky preservation. The back of the bus reads, “TURN OUT THE LIGHTS / INTERNATIONAL DARK SKY PARK.” The right side of the bus shows a full-length image of nebulae, stars, and a telescope, with the line “SEE THE STARS / INTERNATIONAL DARK SKY PARK.” The left side of the bus shows an image of a ringtail looking up at a moonlit night sky, along with a sacred datura plant with a moth on it. The messaging reads “PROTECT NIGHTLIFE / INTERNATIONAL DARK SKY PARK.” 2023 Annual Report.

OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory, Northern Ireland (United Kingdom)
The bespoke “Stars & Stones Experience” offers visitors an insight into the folklore and culture of this area. The OM Solar Search walkway directly links the OM Observatory to the Beaghmore Stone Circles site and emphasizes the importance of our history to the now modern-day observatory. Throughout each guided tour, there are images of these stone sites, and visitors are educated on their importance and history. The stone circles and other Neolithic monuments are important landmarks for astro-tourists and photographers, frequently featured in images captured there.

The second stone circle site within Davagh Forest is the location for special events, including spring and summer meteor events, Samhain into the Darkness, and guided nature walks where visitors can also view local wildlife.

The recent installation of the Three Giant Sperrin Sculpture Trail, our giant named Ceoldán, depicts a commitment to the night sky and the site’s history. Ceoldán has been sculpted holding a dreamcatcher, looking into the night sky and capturing the constellation Pleiades. This links OM with two other sites across the Sperrin mountain range. 2023 Annual Report.

Outreach and Education/Training

Finding common ground through learning:

La Maison du Tourmalet, Pic du Midi (France)

Pic du Midi Dark Sky Reserve (France)
La Maison du Tourmalet at Pic du Midi provides an exhibit dedicated to light pollution, with a virtual pad (histopad) offering one item to understand light pollution on astronomical observations. Managers developed a new regular reserve presentation produced by an animation team, which provides a new time-lapse video showing the benefits of turning off lights. Every year, the Pic du Midi welcomes schoolchildren from all over the Occitanie Region to make them aware of light pollution through animations and videos. The classes range from primary to high school, and educational tools are available to teachers to prepare for their outings. 2023 Annual Report.

Stacy Park, Missouri (United States)
Stacy Park opened a new community center in Warson Park. This center was built using responsible outdoor lighting practices and approved fixtures inside and outside. All docents mention the lighting at the facility during site tours. During the ribbon cutting and open house, DarkSky advocates and members of the local Audubon society shared a table in the vendor section. The city’s fall newsletter included an article on the Lights Out Heartland program and the Five Principles for Responsible Outdoor Lighting. 2023 Annual Report.

Geauga Observatory Park, Ohio (United States)
Geauga’s outreach to seniors expanded through additional online programs and an expanded partnership with the county’s Department On Aging to offer “Elderberries Astronomy Nights.” Outreach to schools via inflatable planetarium programs increased in late 2023 as interest grew leading up to the total solar eclipse of April 8, 2024. Their 2024 eclipse outreach efforts will only accelerate this expanded outreach, leading up to and including the day of the eclipse. 2023 Annual Report.

Lighting Retrofits and Projects

Improving quality of life through good lighting practices:

Before and after lighting changes, Mont-Mégantic (France).
Photo courtesy of Severine Clause

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (United States)
At the time of Grand Canyon National Park’s certification, workers and contractors inventoried 5,094 lights within the park’s boundaries. To become an International DarkSky Park, 67% of lights within the park boundaries must be dark-sky compliant, meaning two out of three lights at the time of certification must adhere to the Five Principles for Responsible Outdoor Lighting. Grand Canyon National Park, as with other certified International Dark Sky Parks, had five years to reach 90% compliance, then five years after that to make the park 100% compliant, and as of March 2024, the park proudly hit the 90% mark thanks to the incredible efforts by volunteers and park leadership and commitment. 2023 Annual Report. 

Lauwersmeer National Park, Friesland and Groningen (Netherlands)
The authorities of the municipality of Het Hogeland, the Province of Groningen, and Groningen University joined forces with the entrepreneurs at the Lauwersoog Port to achieve a considerable reduction of light. The project has the advantage of making Dark Sky Park Lauwersmeer, which is situated near the Port, much darker and reduces energy costs. A report was drawn up with recommendations for the reduction of light emissions. It concerns five categories: public lighting along roads, lighting of precincts, lighting of ships, lighting of quays, and lighting of buildings. In 2023, the parties determined which existing lights could be replaced. In 2024, collaboration will continue, leading to the dark sky park becoming darker. 2023 Annual Report.

Mont-Mégantic, Québec (Canada)
In 2023, the world’s first International Dark Sky Reserve continued its large campaign of door-to-door evaluation of privately owned outdoor lighting. East Angus, Ascot Corner, Frontenac, and Lac-Mégantic were targeted this year. Approximately 900 non-compliant light fixtures at 230 different places were evaluated. Personalized door hangers educating owners about outdoor lighting are left at each property. A second visit is done a few months later to document any changes. The information is then transferred to the municipal inspectors. In Lac-Mégantic and Frontenac, respectively, 45% and 42% of properties visited improved their outdoor lighting to reduce light pollution. East-Angus and Ascot Corner saw respectively 13% and 23% of improvements. With many types of private properties, the improvements vary. Some homeowners switched to warmer light bulbs, and large department stores lit their parking with 1800K amber LED, including the Canadian Tire and Maxi stores in Lac-Mégantic. Ultramar diesel cardlock in Ascot Corner and Energex in Lac-Mégantic are other examples now using amber LED. 2023 Annual Report. 

Ramon Crater National Preserve (Israel)
The Ramon Crater National Preserve will continue to serve as a “flagship park” for protecting natural nightscapes, exhibiting the many positive outcomes achievable through such a certification. Within the INPA parks system, managers are working with light designers and planners on standards for all INPA campgrounds and National Parks where artificial light is used or planned at night. They also continue to work with local partners (local environmental NGOs and local and regional municipalities) to help minimize light pollution. In 2024, leaders intend to further engage with the tourism industry to raise their awareness of the unique natural asset protected by the Ramon Crater. 2023 Annual Report.

Public Policy and Community Relations

Engagement to benefit everyone:

Children at Ysgol Aberdaron primary school on the Llyn Peninsula learning about light pollution, Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island), Wales
Photo courtesy of Menna Jones

Canyonlands National Park, Utah (United States)
In the past year, Canyonlands National Park engaged new audiences through various initiatives. They focused on enhancing outreach and education within the local Moab community, emphasizing the importance of preserving their night sky resources. This involved organizing their annual astronomy festival (AstroFest), collaborating with local partners such as Science Moab to educate local guides on light pollution, participating in the Moab Art and Recreation Center (MARC) art fair, and consistently sharing social media posts about protecting night skies at home. They hosted star parties, full moon hikes, and evening programs, reaching thousands of visitors in Canyonlands throughout the year. 2023 Annual Report.

Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island), Wales (United Kingdom)
One of the main programs the brand new Dark Sky Sanctuary will run over the next three years is the new Etifeddiaeth Enlli project, which is a heritage, history, educational, and cultural as well as building restoration. A sum of £246k has been given to managers of the area and will fund two posts, including a Project Officer role. This project will include working with local schools, young ambassadors, and history and cultural groups, as well as specific content on wellbeing and dark sky benefits, including studying wildlife and benefits to people. They have also received a small grant of £16k to employ a coordinator and hold an Artists in Residence project for six artists for between 2 and 4 weeks this spring and summer. The artists will document their work online and hold workshops for islanders, day visitors, and people staying on the island. 2023 Annual Report.

Warrumbungle National Park, South Wales (Australia) & Cedar Break National Monument, Utah (United States)
The Warrumbungle Dark Sky Park Committee agreed to build a relationship with the Cedar Breaks National Monument Dark Sky Park (Utah, USA) in 2024. Opportunities include a formal Dark Sky Park Cooperation Partnership, marketing and communication cross-collaboration, sharing of Dark Sky Park astronomy programs, knowledge sharing of management initiatives for surrounding communities regarding light management inside and outside the park, ranger exchange programs, and natural resource management project opportunities.

The coordinator of the Cedar Breaks National Monument International Dark Sky Park, Matthias Schmidt, visited the Warrumbungle National Park and Siding Springs Observatory early in 2023 to learn about Dark Sky Parks in Australia to identify what could be done to collaborate. Cedar Breaks receives 5 million visitors annually, and Mr Schmidt is keen to pursue future partnerships in 2024. Warrumbungle 2023 Annual Report. Cedar Breaks 2023 Annual Report.

Sky Quality and Community Science

Tracking change and gaining knowledge:

Yorkshire Dales National Park (United Kingdom)
Dark sky leaders at Yorkshire Dales National Park have been trialing the use of permanent light meters as part of the Tess Monitoring scheme operating out of Madrid University. There are 7 Tess-W light meters located across the Yorkshire Dales National Park Dark Sky Reserve. Three are in the core area, three in the buffer area (located at the visitor centers), and one on the perimeter of the Reserve area (the southern boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park). They found that using permanent light meters was preferable to using volunteers with hand-held meters. A benefit of permanent light meters is that they allow readings at the darkest time of night instead of depending on staff and volunteers. 2023 Annual Report.

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Alberta (Canada) and Montana  (United States)
A group of students from Wooster Polytechnic Institute (WPI) worked with the Waterton-Glacier teams to develop a more user-friendly compliance tracking tool that is now operational. The same group of students also conducted a park-wide lighting assessment and inventory. Using the students from WPI, park managers were able to identify lighting fixtures that were missed on the initial inventories, track the progress towards night sky-compliant lighting throughout the park, and document new lighting fixtures that were not dark sky-compliant. WPI students were also able to answer questions about the ownership of several offending light fixtures in the park, and park leadership will be reaching out to these groups to start working to replace these fixtures with more appropriate ones or remove them completely. These findings resulted in a change in compliance percentage. 2023 Annual Report.

Borrego Springs, California (United States)
Dark sky leaders in Borrego Springs, California, have begun processing and analyzing data from a recording Unihedron SQM-LU-DL installed last year at the residence of Borrego Springs Dark Sky Coalition member. This report includes a map indicating the SQM’s location on the northern outskirts of Borrego Springs. Anticipating the accumulation of adequate data in a couple of years, Borrego Springs should be poised to detect any changes over time in night sky quality. It’s important to note that in Borrego Springs, the night sky’s brightness is primarily influenced by uplight from surrounding cities such as San Diego, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Mexicali, and others. 2023 Annual Report.

Environment and Wildlife Protection

Protecting natural resources for all:

Dark Sky advocates with signage about light pollution and wildlife, Watoga State Park, West Virginia (United States)
Photo courtesy of Watoga State Park staff

Bannau Brycheiniog National Park (Brecon Beacons), Wales (United Kingdom)
In working with Sustainable Landscapes, three buildings within the Brecon Beacons Dark Sky Reserve were identified as needing retrofitted lighting. They were identified in a survey completed by Just Mammals using bat monitors. Just Mammals is an ecological consultancy with thirty years of experience in undertaking projects involving mammals and has specialist knowledge with respect to badgers, bats, dormice, otters, and water voles. Readings will be taken again in 2024, when the lights have been retrofitted to measure the impacts on bats. 2023 Annual Report.

Tumacácori National Historical Park, Arizona (United States)
The Mount Hopkins Observatory hosted firefly viewing events near Tumacácori National Historical Park. Collaborations and dark sky conservation efforts are discussed at these events, and future partnerships are cultivated. For instance, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and Albuquerque Wildlife Park are at the forefront of firefly conservation and have been working closely with Tumacácori National Heritage Park to develop dark sky promoting pamphlets and other outreach material for fireflies and other invertebrates in the area. 2023 Annual Report.

Watoga State Park, West Virginia (United States)
The Watoga State Park Superintendent has conveyed that there are increasing comments on surveys about the dark skies after staying at the park. More visitors are specifically coming because it is a dark sky park, and visitors who stay often comment that they agree it is the darkest sky they have ever experienced. Attendance is increasing at the park’s nature programs focused on nocturnal wildlife, including the recently discovered “Synchronous Fireflies” and Owl programs. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has an ongoing temperature monitor near known sites with Synchronous Fireflies to predict when they will emerge and flash their lights. They rely on the darkest skies and ideal temperatures to demonstrate this display. This is to predict their activities for studies and also to try to locate other endangered firefly species. 2023 Annual Report. 

Art and Culture

Inspiration through exploration, creativity, and heritage:

Astrotourguide trainings, Hehuan Mountain, Taiwan (Chinese Taipei)

Blanco, Texas (United States)
The City of Blanco conducts a yearly Night Sky Art Contest for students in the middle school and high school of Blanco County. With the enthusiastic support of the art teachers, these contests have generated 483 entries in the four years we have run them. Cash prizes of more than $1700 have been awarded to the winning entries. Not only have these contests engaged the students and their families, but they have also been covered extensively in the two local newspapers, thereby giving publicity to the night sky preservation movement in Blanco County. The city has sponsored two night sky song-writing contests that have generated substantial interest in the night sky amongst the robust Musician Community in the county and produced a 13-song CD from entries received. 2023 Annual Report.

Hehuan Mountain, Taiwan
The Ministry of Culture Talent Cultivation in Star Creation Academy created the “Aboriginal Knowledge and Starry Sky Tourism Development Strategic Plan.” This plan aims to develop aboriginal knowledge-based starry sky tourism through talent cultivation. National Chi Nan University connects Cingjing and Lushan tribes with local youths, seniors, entrepreneurs, social enterprises, and local organizations. It achieves the goal of multi-dimensional cooperation and cross-domain co-creation. Using regional cultural characteristics, including the three elements of astronomical astrology, aboriginal cultural stories, and mountain ecology, to develop new industries in the community, we expect to deepen the cultural connotation of starry sky tourism and establish Taiwan’s first starry sky tourism industry with aboriginal knowledge connotation. 2023 Annual Report.

Great Basin National Park, Nevada (United States)
Great Basin National Park’s annual Art in the Dark program blends visual arts with dark sky conservation. Park leadership began the program with a ranger talk about art history in the National Parks. The astronomy intern then discussed the relationship between astronomy and art and how red lighting would affect visitors’ vision. This was related to using red light to preserve one’s night vision and the role of warm-colored lights in decreasing light pollution. Our Artist in Residence, Jacqui Abend, was involved in the preparation and execution of the event. People did not know their color paints and were only allowed to paint using red lighting. There were individual canvas options and a communal mural to paint on. Visitors then got to see their creations in white light the following day. 2023 Annual Report.