MORGAN — Officials from East Canyon State Park believe darkness is a natural resource worth protecting.
The northeastern Utah mountain recreation preserve was recently designated an International Dark Sky Park — a classification that means East Canyon’s nighttime skies are free enough of light pollution and have an “exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment,” according to the nonprofit that grants the classification.
“(The) designation means that East Canyon State Park has beautifully dark night skies that allow visitors to clearly view the Milky Way and other celestial objects,” reads a press release from the International Dark Sky Association.
Partly inspired by the science fiction television series “Star Trek,” East Canyon State Park Manager Chris Haramoto said work to get the parked tabbed with a dark sky designation took about a half-decade.
“It took our team about five years to complete and it was a very long process,” Haramoto said during a dedication ceremony last week.
Haramoto, park staff, and a team of interns and volunteers had to meet strict programming, monitoring and infrastructure requirements spelled out by the IDA.
In 2014, the East Canyon officials began hosting “Star Park Academy” courses for the public — a series of hands-on, informational classes on astronomy. In 2016, the crew also started measuring the quality of the darkness within the park.
From 2017 to 2019, the group worked on changing out old park lights for new, dark sky-friendly fixtures with soft tones, full cut-off shielding, motion detectors and timers. The new lighting system helped to enhance the natural darkness within the park.
Utah now has 14 official dark sky parks, more than any other state.
“Utah ... leads the state park systems of the United States in terms of total designations,” IDA Executive Director Ruskin Hartley said in a statement. “Not only is this an important achievement for East Canyon State Park, but it is a testament to the commitment shown by Utah State Parks to elevate the importance of dark-sky protections among its constituent park units.”
Northern Utah alone boasts three dark sky sites. North Fork Park in Weber County was named an International Dark Sky Park in April 2015. Most recently, Antelope Island was tabbed in April 2017.
According to a press release from the Utah Division of Natural Resources, Fremont Indian State Park, Goosenecks State Park, Gunlock State Park, Jordanelle State Park, Kodachrome State Park, Rockport State Park and Wasatch Mountain State Park will all submit International Dark Sky Park applications in November.