Tucson, AZ -- (SBWIRE) -- 12/10/2013 -- The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) announced today it has designated two new International Dark Sky Places in the United Kingdom (UK), including one representing the largest land area of protected night skies in all of Europe. This brings to six the total number of IDA International Dark Sky Places in the UK, second only to the United States.
IDA is proud to recognize Northumberland International Dark Sky Park and Isle of Coll International Dark Sky Community for their exceptional efforts in helping preserve and promote dark night skies over Britain.
“The naming of two new Dark Sky Places in the UK really takes dark skies in Europe to the next level,” IDA Executive Director Bob Parks said. “We’re seeing the issue approaching critical mass and placing dark skies along the frontline of conservation issues in Britain. We hope that message extends further to continental Europe and beyond.”
Northumberland International Dark Sky Park
A UK National Park and adjacent forestry plantation encompassing nearly 580 square miles (1500 km2) of public lands in northern England, Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park are the first IDA-recognized International Dark Sky Park consisting of two in-dependent parkland units.
Once at the frontier of Roman Britain where Hadrian’s Wall repelled Pictish invaders, Northumberland International Dark Sky Park now serves as a bulwark against the incursion of harmful light pollution into one of the darkest locations in England.
With today’s IDA announcement, National Parks UK and Forestry Commission England adds dark skies to their portfolio of protected natural resources including the largest manmade woodland and reservoir in northern Europe. Kielder Forest provides Britain with 200 million board feet (475,000 m3) of timber annually.
The dark night sky attracts an increasing number of visitors to the region. Kielder Observatory, the UK’s largest and most active public observatory, widely promotes local astronomy events and activities. “Dark skies and astronomy have become a passion in the area,” according to Heidi Mottram, Chair of the Kielder Water and Forest Park Development Trust and Chief Executive of Northumbrian Water.
As both Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park began to vie independently for IDA recognition, it quickly became evident that two heads were better than one. “It made perfect sense to work together to protect one of our greatest assets and make it available to more people,” Mottram said.
Park officials hope that protecting dark skies through the promotion of responsible outdoor light-ing will increase the allure of Northumberland as a tourism destination.
“Becoming a Dark Sky Park will reinforce the status of Northumberland as an unspoiled destination offering a true sense of tranquility and wildness – a tonic in this day and age,” said Tony Gates, Chief Executive of Northumberland National Park.
Isle of Coll International Dark Sky Community
A sparse population and geographic isolation make the night skies over the Isle of Coll among the darkest in Scotland. The island adopted a quality outdoor lighting management plan to ensure Coll remains dark for many future generations of residents and visitors.
Coll lies about six miles (10 km) west of coastal Argyll and hosts just over 200 residents. It at-tracts dozens of bird species according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which owns an extensive reserve at the west end of the island and hosts one of Coll’s recognized night sky viewing sites on its land. Nature tourism in part draws thousands of visitors to the island each year.
“Achieving dark skies status will be great for the island in many ways,” Julie Oliphant, hotelier at the Coll Hotel, explained. “Not only will it ensure that any future development on the island is done in a way that protects Coll’s natural and unspoiled beauty, but it will also help promote winter tourism.”
Fred Hall of the Argyll and Bute Council echoed the sentiment. “The Isle of Coll is a unique is-land in many ways, not least of which is its beautiful countryside and sea views but also the lack of light pollution,” he said. “I can think of no better island in the inner Hebrides to gain the Dark Skies accolade.”
Northumberland International Dark Sky Park is IDA’s thirteenth while the Isle of Coll becomes the world’s fifth International Dark Sky Community. They join four existing International Dark Sky Places in Britain: Galloway Forest Park in Scotland, Isle of Sark in the Channel Islands, Exmoor National Park in England, and Brecon Beacons in Wales.
About the IDA Dark Sky Places Program
IDA established the International Dark Sky Places conservation program in 2001 to recognize excellent stewardship of the night sky. Designations are based on stringent outdoor lighting standards and innovative community outreach. Since the program began, five communities, thirteen parks and five reserves have received International Dark Sky designations. For more information about the International Dark Sky Places Program, visit: http://darksky.org/night-sky-conservation/dark-sky-places.
The International Dark Sky Association, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Tucson, Arizona, advocates for the protection of the nighttime environment and dark night skies by educating the public on the subject of night sky conservation and by promoting environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. More information about IDA and its activities may be found at http://www.darksky.org.
Left: Stargazing at Cawfields, Northumberland National Park (Credit: visitnorthumberland.com)
Right: Night sky over the Isle of Coll (Credit: Olvin Smith)
“Northumberland National Park By Night” (YouTube video; length: 4m32s)
International Dark-Sky Association
- Dr. John Barentine (Dark Sky Places Program Manager) firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 520 293 3198
Northumberland and Kielder Forest
- Alex MacLennan (Recreation & Public Affairs Manager, North England Forest District) Alex.MacLennan@forestry.gsi.gov.uk, +44 (0)1434 221004
- Elisabeth Rowark (Chair, Dark Skies Working Group, Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust) Elisabeth.ROWARK@visitkielder.co.uk, +44 (0)1661 855536
- Duncan Wise (Visitor Development Officer, Northumberland National Park) email@example.com, +44 (0)1434 605555
Isle of Coll
- Tony Oliver (Coll application author) firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 1879 230275
- Julie Oliphant (Hotelier, The Coll Hotel) email@example.com, +44 1879 230334