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Arkansas gets its first dark sky park designation

June 24, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Buffalo National River park has won recognition as Arkansas’s first International Dark Sky Park after getting 345 light fixtures into compliance in two years.

Park ranger Cassandra Johannsen told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that although the park’s 1.2 million visitors mainly go to float the Buffalo River, she noticed some go exclusively for the night sky to capture photos.

“Simply sit back with your family and enjoy it and see the Milky Way, which unfortunately is something a lot of folks can’t do anymore,” Johannsen said.

Bruce McMath, who heads the Arkansas Natural Sky Association and nominated the park for dark sky recognition, said the park had to remove bright light bulbs and replace them with bulbs that are under 3,000 on the light temperature Kelvin scale.

Compliance is expected from all visitors to the park — the 71st dark sky park in the world — Johannsen said. Earlier this month, some noisy campers who illuminated a disco ball were gently reminded of the park’s policy. But they were not ticketed.

“We’re not doing any sort of enforcement,” she said.

Park rangers and amateur astronomers have developed impressive dark sky programs, McMath added.

In the park’s application to the International Dark Sky Association, Superintendent Mark Foust said he wanted the park to be a regional leader.

“Through this designation, Buffalo National River can serve as an example and resource for other public land agencies in the region who are interested in learning about this process,” he wrote in a March 7 letter.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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