Help make Red Rock Country part of Dark Sky Community

Our starry night skies - one of the wonders visitors marvel at, while we get to enjoy each cloudless night. I can't tell you how many people have told me how spectacular our night skies are.

As you know, they are a large part of what drew many area residents to this area: to witness the brightness and magnificence of our sunsets as darkness settles in, revealing the awesome vastness of Milky Way and reminding us to consider, even if briefly, what the universe is. Into these dark skies, a stargazer's wonderland, we find answers, more questions, and peacefulness.

We cannot take these skies for granted. And we can all do our part, including supporting the Keep Sedona Beautiful's upcoming application for the City of Sedona to be a certified International Dark Sky Community.

As our area becomes more populated there will be more and more outdoor lighting. If not designed to protect our night skies this lighting will have a negative effect on our ability to enjoy the sensation of seeing so much of our universe: comets crossing the horizon, shooting stars (really particles entering our atmosphere) or the many satellites crossing above us. So many people in today's world are separated from dark skies and removed from this time-honored revelry. Just think about the solitude we enjoy when sitting on our porch or in our backyards enjoying the totality of our night skies.

Over the last couple of decades, Keep Sedona Beautiful (KSB) has been working with various government jurisdictions so their outdoor lighting codes help protect our skies from light pollution. KSB help develop the current outdoor lighting code for the City of Sedona. We also assisted Yavapai County in its development of their initial outdoor lighting code and subsequent revisions.

Over the years we have conducted educational outreach about the importance of protecting our skies from light pollution and produced educational pamphlets for public distribution. In the City of Sedona, KSB has done numerous outdoor lighting surveys to help the city implement a program to refit outdoor lighting that was grandfathered in when the current code was developed. This is a volunteer program where businesses and the city share the cost of new lighting that is in compliance with the current code.

KSB is currently working on obtaining support for the City of Sedona to be certified as an International Dark Sky Community. We will be applying to The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), located in Tucson, Arizona. Upon certification, the City of Sedona would become only the fifth city to receive this special designation. The first city to receive certification was Flagstaff, Arizona in 2001. We should know the results of the application by early 2014.

IDA's goal is to promote preservation and protection of night skies across the globe. The program aims to protect locations of exceptional nighttime visages for future generations. Certified Dark Sky Communities excel in their efforts to achieve a community-wide lighting code, promote responsible lighting, dark sky stewardship, and exist as an example to surrounding communities on the possibilities available with proper lighting. The City of Sedona's outdoor lighting code meets these guidelines, and the city has a history of providing stewardship in maintaining our regions dark skies.

KSB is committed to continuing our efforts. Even after receiving a designation, the IDA requires certified communities continue to work towards improving their dark sky environment through education and programs, such as the retrofit program currently in use by the City of Sedona.

Since the City of Flagstaff's designation, the region around the city has started to develop a plan to protect the dark skies on the Colorado Plateau. KSB believes that is the direction our region should take after the City of Sedona receives its designation. Our intent is to work with Yavapai and Coconino Counties and other local governments to obtain a regional designation for the Verde Valley. As we continue to see the glow on the horizon from outdoor lighting in the Phoenix area we must ask the question, "Is that what we want for our region?" KSB believes the answer is clear, "No," and that as a region we want to protect our quality of life now and for future generations.

The City of Sedona and our region deserves a dark sky designation. We have instituted outdoor lighting codes that protect our dark skies, instituted programs to improve retrofit lighting that was grandfathered in when our current code was implemented and have and will continue to educate residents and visitors about the need to protect our skies. We should look to our neighbors in Flagstaff and the Coconino Plateau and realize that together we can create an environment in Northern Arizona that protects our night skies for future generations.

Thank you in advance for showing your support for both the City of Sedona's IDA Dark Sky certification and for working on future dark sky designations for our entire region. Please send KSB an email at sedonadarkskies@gmail.com to show your support or if you have any questions.

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