Dark-sky designations bring the promise of starry nights — and tourist dollars — to rural Colorado
A dark-sky designation offers economic benefits, but it also advances the notion of light pollution as an environmental issue
ORCHARD — The first weekend Jackson Lake State Park received its certification from the International Dark-Sky Association, ranger Amy Brandenburg saw more than the Milky Way on her night patrols.
Campers gathered like the moths and midges that used to swarm around the buildings at night before the park went dark. The grounds were full of them, which was strange, given that it was late September, a time that brought a discouraging chill to the summer fun that burnished Jackson Lake’s reputation as a place for boating and partying with your bros.
These campers were much different, too: They all seemed to have telescopes, and they whispered to each other, as though they were studying together in a library. They weren’t there for a beer bash. They were there to look at the stars.
Almost overnight, Jackson Lake had a new reason for visitors.
That’s why the park, which closes at dusk in the winter, opened up on a Sunday night earlier this month to give residents a chance to watch the Geminid meteors. The temperature dipped into the single digits, with a thick blanket of snow smothering campsites, and yet, stargazers whooped and hollered louder than Morgan County’s yelping coyotes every time a burning light tore across the sky.
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