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Western Slope Skies: Coalition

Dave Muller
The Milky Way Over Lone Cone.

Howdy, I’m Bob Grossman, President of the Western Slope Dark Sky Coalition based in Norwood. The Coalition, a 501c3 non-profit, is an umbrella organization dedicated to supporting Dark Sky Places. We work with governments and citizens. The Coalition currently has four members: the West End Dark Sky Alliance that manages the Joint Dark Sky Community of Nucla and Naturita, the San Miguel County Dark Sky Reserve Application Team, the Town of Norwood which was the first Dark Sky Community on the Western Slope, and the Town of Ophir, currently applying for Dark Sky Community designation.

There is a lot of Dark Sky activity in this region. Over in Ouray County, Ridgway is a Dark Sky Community and Top of the Pines is a Dark Sky Park. The BLM is about to submit an application for a Gunnison Gorge Dark Sky Park. In fact, this region is one of the most active Dark Sky areas in the State.

The Coalition’s top priority for the coming year is to apply for the 1289 sq. miles of San Miguel County to become a Dark Sky Reserve. That’s right, the entire county!

What is a Reserve? It is a large area meeting requirements quantifying its darkness and dedicated to preserving them. It consists of a pristine Core area and a Periphery that protects the core from light threats. According to Dark Sky International, having a county become a Reserve has never been attempted and will be precedent setting. If successful, San Miguel County will become the first Reserve in the State, third in the Nation, and twenty-second in the world.

The Coalition worked with San Miguel County to revise its Land Use Code’s Lighting Section to align with Dark Sky Reserve requirements. This gives the Reserve designation a legal backbone. Together, they ensure the preservation of the area’s Dark Sky for generations.

This effort highlights the long-term philosophy of the Coalition to create a regional Reserve county-by-county, each with a legal backbone to ensure compliance. The main enforcement mechanism is through the building permit system and education. Only egregious violation of the Code light trespass would get county action. Normally, a friendly conversation clears it up.

The Coalition’s area of interest is one of the darkest places in the world where people live comfortably. Let’s not let this ancient heritage and precious resource slip away from us. You can support the Coalition by going to our website. A link is available on the KVNF website.

You have been listening to “Western Slope Skies”, produced by members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society and KVNF Community radio. I’m Bob Grossman.


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