Stargazer

Livability.com has listed Staunton River State Park as one of six places across the United States that go above and beyond in protecting their night skies, and because of that, the park is listed as one of the top places in the country to stargaze.

Flagstaff, Arizona, Borrego Springs, California, Torrey, Utah, Chaco Culture National Historical Park near Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Emmet County, Michigan also were listed as top destinations for stargazing.

Staunton River State Park was named an International Dark Sky Park in July 2015, becoming the first park in the state of Virginia and the 25th park in the world to receive the designation.

Park staff achieved the designation by establishing an outdoor lighting policy that minimized light pollution.

Staunton River State Park was the only location on the east coast mentioned in the online article.

In all, there are 13 “dark sky communities” in the United States.

“Many exterior light fixtures were replaced with approved dark sky fixtures, including lights in rental cabins, residences and parking lots,” Livability.com said.

“The park in southern Virginia also developed plans that made sure any future park expansion doesn’t obscure the night sky. Even before the designation, though, the Chapel Hill Astronomical Observational Society (CHAOS) had been promoting astronomy and dark sky events in the park.

“The park’s ‘Dark Sky Observation Area’ is a nine-acre field adjacent to the Visitor Center that shows off views of the night sky. The park draws astronomers and star enthusiasts each spring and fall for multi-day star parties.”

Staunton River State Park Manager Adam Layton said the night sky is a natural resource that often is overlooked.

“Halifax County continues to have exceptionally dark skies, especially for being on the east coast,” said Layman.

“Staunton River State Park continues to provide educational programming on the importance of preserving our night sky, as well as numerous astronomy programs, and we’re excited to be included on this list.

“We continue to see an increase in visitation from across the country for those wanting to observe the night sky.”

A stargazing session last weekend had almost 50 participants, according to Layman, who added stargazers included cabin and campground guests that learned about Staunton River State Park through its Dark Sky Park designation.

Stargazers from Richmond and Washington, D.C. also drove down just for the night to see the stars, the park manager said.

“Being mentioned in an article like this is great not only for the park, but for Halifax County as well,” Layman pointed out.

“It highlights the outdoor recreational opportunities that we are blessed to have, the support Staunton River State Park receives from the community and all of the work the tourism department has done to promote our county and bring people in.”