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Slumgullion Center International Dark Sky Park Designation Approved

Slumgullion Center Dark Sky Park
View toward the west from the Slumgullion Center property in September. Photo by Michael Underwood.

Hinsdale County is now home to the newest International Dark Sky Park. The Lake Fork Valley Conservancy’s (LFVC) application to designate the 58-acre Slumgullion Center was approved last week by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Board of Directors in Tucson, Arizona. The head writer for the application was LFVC’s Executive Director, Camille Richard. She was assisted by the LFVC board and staff as well help from local photographer Michael Underwood and amateur astronomer Phillip Virden, who was the initiator of this endeavor.

The IDA founded the International Dark Sky Places (IDSP) Program in 2001 to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting polices and public education.

“Today’s announcement is a thrilling one,” stated International Dark-Sky Association Executive Director Ruskin Hartley. “This designation demonstrates the commitment that Lake Fork Valley Conservancy has made to protecting the night and we applaud their efforts.” 

Currently, the Slumgullion Center Dark Sky Park is undeveloped with no lighting. All future development will meet the standards set by the IDA to prevent light pollution. LFVC is planning to coordinate small group stargazing sessions at the Center starting next summer. Additionally, astronomy program plans are in the works up on Slumgullion Pass and in town utilizing the Lake City Community School’s portable planetarium (which was donated to the school by the University of Colorado). 

“We are blessed in Lake City and Hinsdale County to have extraordinary dark skies for viewing the remarkable wonders of our star-filled universe,” remarked Phillip Virden.  “We want to do everything possible to preserve this unique setting for our children, grandchildren, and for all future generations who live and visit here.”

LFVC and the Town of Lake City are part of a regional partnership with several Colorado organizations and communities who are promoting dark sky awareness in the state, such as the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Black Canyon Astronomical Society, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Colorado Tourism Office, Colorado Stargazing, the Gunnison Observatory, and the towns of Creede, Crestone, Westcliffe, Silver Cliff, La Veta, Cuchara, Ridgway, Norwood, and Naturita.

The LFVC is excited to take on this challenge and offer quality programming to the public. Stay tuned for news of a starry celebration next June! To arrange astronomy programs at the Slumgullion Center for next season, please contact the LFVC at 970-944-5382, or email [email protected].