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Feature Story

January 2017


Georgia State Park Celebrates Its Dark Sky Status

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Council Announces Release of Second Edition of Model Aquatic Health Code - August 2016

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U.S. Masters Swimming Campaigns to Reduce Adult Drowning - April 2016

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By Chandler Garland

In December 2016, the Stephen C. Foster State Park celebrated its distinction as a Gold-Tier International Dark-Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). The Georgian park now joins Big Bend National Park in Texas and Death Valley National Park in Nevada as one of the world's best stargazing locations.

The IDA is a nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Ariz., that advocates for the protection of night-time environments. Their main focus is the promotion of environmentally responsible outdoor lighting through the education of policy-makers and the public on the dangers of light pollution. They also provide affordable lighting alternatives to harmful blue-light LEDs. Under the Park and Protected Areas Program (PPA), the IDA helps parks acquire dark-sky-friendly lighting. Many of these alternatives are expensive, but the IDA wants to expand the market for such lights through this program to make them more affordable in the long run.

The Stephen C. Foster Park is one of the participants in the PPA. In order to reach the distinction of Gold-Tier International Dark-Sky Park, the park underwent months of preparation, which included the purchase of dark-sky-friendly lights. The park removed a total of 13 streetlamps and switched the remaining bulbs to amber LED bulbs. Amber light, being on the infrared end of the light spectrum, allows the beam to travel farther, meaning the park will be able to provide the same breadth of light without using as many lamps. Blue-white light is near the ultraviolet end of the spectrum, which, apart from being harmful to the eyes, is a much narrower beam and requires more lamps. Blue-white light also refracts off surfaces rather than defusing like amber light, creating more light pollution.

The IDA purchases amber LEDs in bulk at a 35 percent discount from Zenaro Lighting in Boynton Beach, Fla., and sends them to parks depending on need. Sometimes they even provide the bulbs for free. This way, the IDA can supply the lights at a reduced price and with a shorter lead period on orders. Any money that was made from the sale of bulbs by the IDA is put back into the program to purchase more lights.

Stephen C. Foster National Park also replaced the outdoor lights on cabins with motion-activated lights and worked with local electric companies to install state-of-the-art amber LEDs. "We are thrilled to have achieved this goal of making Stephen C. Foster State Park a world-class destination for astronomy enthusiasts," said Georgia State Parks Director Becky Kelly.

This western entrance to the largest wetland in the nation, Okefenokee Swamp, offers astronomy programs throughout the year with 8-inch and 10-inch telescopes. However, with the changes they have made to the park, guests don't need a telescope to see the stars.

Visit www.darksky.org for more information on the IDA and the Parks and Protected Areas program.


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