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Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve 1st Anniversary

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Written by Sherrilyn Jahrig (Edmonton) & Richard Huziak, Saskatoon on
Post Date: 
Sat, 2007/09/29

The first anniversary celebration of the signing of the Beaver Hills Dark-Sky Preserve declaration was held in Central Alberta at Elk Island National Park, on September 2, 2007. Whereas the RASC Edmonton Centre did the majority of organizing for last year’s inaugural event: ‘Many Cultures, One Sky’; Parks Canada staff did most of the organizing for 2007. The event was well attended with several hundred guests, a lower key event compared to last year’s gate count of over 2,500!

Alberta Parks participated this year with a constellation/star-lore presentation. In January 2008, Alberta Parks will be introducing a BHDSP Provincial Initiative in Astronomy and Dark Sky Preservation Education available to elementary schools. ‘D.S.I.: Dark Sky Investigators’ includes a theatre performance, classroom component and field trip centered on astronomy and preservation of the nocturnal environment.

On the national front, Dow Community Grants Program and Elk Island National Park are partnering to enhance the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve Designation through interpretive and outreach education programs. The project will provide students and teachers in Elk Island School District with resources to learn more about the Dark Sky Preserve. As well, guides and interpretive panels will be created for park visitors to increase awareness of the Dark Sky Preserve and the role that individuals play in energy conservation and responsible lighting practices. They have already purchased telescopes and have a good start on an astronomy library.

The anniversary celebration started at 4:00 pm with an open-air ceremony chaired by Dr. Douglas P. Hube. Doug and Laurie Guyote, Parks Canada, unveiled the beautiful painting ‘Dark Skies’ by Lewis Lavoie, created at the declaration event. Sherrilyn Jahrig of Edmonton Centre was awarded a print for her dedication to the DSP team’s success. Public Education Director, Orla Aaquist, provided live music including an original song, ‘The Stars Belong to Everyone’, dedicated to the BHDSP.

The better looking author poses with her Lewis Lavois “Dark Skies” painting, presented in appreciation of her work in the creation of the DSP.

At 4:45 pm, presentations moved into the Astotin Theatre where talks followed until 9:30pm. Speakers included Doug Hube: A Celestial Embrace: Sun, Earth and Aurora; Parks Interpreter Matt Davis: Scotobiology; Rick Huziak: Dark-Sky Preserves; David Roles: The Grand Tour of the Planets; Richard Vanderberg: Dark Sky Objects; Bruce McCurdy: Constellations from the Top Down; and Massimo Torri: Moon Walk.

As the presentations held the fort, outdoor children’s activities and solar viewing was available. Paul and Sherry Campbell, Murray and Joanne Paulson, Greg and Lindsay Brundell, Mike Noble, and a dozen others hosted telescopes. As dusk set in, we all got our scopes set up and eagerly awaited the clearing of a promising sky, but alas, haze and cirrus continued to thicken, and by the time the moon rose around midnight, all hope of seeing anything specific to a dark site was lost. We took consolation in the success of the great indoor programs. We showed our telescopes and the usual brighter objects, which were exciting to new observers. We were all a bit sad that we didn’t get to see the moon’s passage through the Pleiades – but it looked great on our computer programs!

It was awesome to watch the Parks presentations and to realize that staff is funded to produce astronomy programming, research such things as Scotobiology, buy telescopes and books, and raise public awareness about dark sky preservation. The ripple effect is enormous already…and so soon! Congratulations need to go to the Beaver Hills DSP curators and the Edmonton RASC volunteers for a job well-done!

Beautiful Astotin Lake. However, the cirrus crept in before we could get the night viewing in.
Paul Campbell shows the eager crowd the sun. Paul was later eclipsed by the only nearby tree in a poor site-planning accident.