Dark Skies: Parks giving boost to stargazers

Visitors flock to West Virginia in search of many treasures, but one about which we don’t often think is that our remote, pristine areas lend themselves to an escape from light pollution. For scientists and stargazers, that is precious and rare in this country.

Now, Watoga State Park, in Pocahontas County, has achieved recognition for its efforts to quell light pollution. It has been recognized as a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. The designation includes Calvin Price State Forest and Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park as well.

According to a report by West Virginia Public Broadcasting, the park foundation’s board of directors has been working toward achieving this designation. Since 2018 the group has replaced 150 outdoor light fixtures, installed telescopes and added stargazing events as well as educational events on wildlife that benefits from a dark sky environment.

Watoga and surrounding parks “not only represent the state of West Virginia in our Dark Sky Parks program, but are also raising awareness for one of the largest and darkest skysheds within the eastern United States, “said Ruskin Hartley, director of the International Dark Sky Association.

It is, of course, not the only place in the state with such potential. Calhoun County Park’s board of directors also is working toward achieving the Dark Sky Park designation.

Watoga State Park Foundation board President John Goodwin said “Many new opportunities now exist to study the heavens and nocturnal creatures. This is a new and exciting time for the park and its visitors. Not only can the park offer activities during the day but now they can offer activities at night.”

Congratulations to those who will help bring new visitors to West Virginia because they aimed for the stars.


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