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“Party under the Stars” at Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve

by Bruce McCurdy, RASC Edmonton Centre

On September 6, 2009 the next anniversary celebration “Party under the Stars” will be held at the Astotin Lake Campground in Elk Island National Park. Details will be posted here as the event nears. In the mean time, you can read about the 2008 party below.

 Two years after its declaration in 2006, Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve (BHDSP) continues to thrive and grow. On August 31, 2008 an anniversary celebration “Party under the Stars” was held at the Astotin Lake Campground in Elk Island National Park. 

The highlight of this year’s event was the inclusion of another partner, Strathcona Wilderness Centre, to the expanding DSP. With this latest addition, Beaver Hills becomes the first DSP in Canada to involve three levels of government: Federal, Provincial, and Municipal. This cooperative status will facilitate important dialog within and among these groups, and with RASC. 

The addition of this small dark-sky “island,” two miles west of the previous westernmost boundary, means a modest bump in the size of BHDSP, now 302 km2. More importantly it adds yet another education platform to those already being provided by Elk Island National Park and Cooking Lake/Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area. It is this increased reach in raising the profile of astronomy and particularly public awareness of the issues related to light pollution which has been the most valuable outcome of the partnership. 

A formal ceremony was held in the Astotin Theatre, in which a certificate welcoming the new partner was formally presented to Jean Funk, Supervisor of SWC. Representatives of each organization signed the new document, including Edmonton Centre President Krista Stefan on behalf of RASC, Marilyn Peckett of Parks Canada, and Cecilia Goncalves of Alberta Parks. Strathcona County, whose Recreation Parks and Culture department oversees SWC, was represented by Councillor Roxanne Carr. A national RASC Light Pollution Abatement Award was presented to Jean Funk by local LPAC chair Bruce McCurdy. 

The second-anniversary celebration was highlighted by a number of well-attended public presentations in Astotin Theatre. One highlight was a command performance of “DSI: Dark Sky Investigator,” an outstanding children’s theatre program developed by Tangle Caron and Natalie Frijia of Alberta Parks for their ongoing Parks in the Classroom programming. Meanwhile Matt Davis of Parks Canada presented on scotobiology, while astronomy-themed talks were given by RASCals David Roles, Doug Hube, Warren Finlay, Massimo Torri, and Bruce McCurdy. Throughout the day, noted children’s astronomy author Joan Marie Galat displayed her story telling skills, with assistance at the late night constellation walk from Alberta Parks’ Cecilia Goncalves. 

Meanwhile, a couple of dozen RASCals congregated on the telescope field by Astotin Lake. An unofficial telescope count revealed some 20 instruments. Alas, after some promising clearing in the early evening, clouds rolled in and the dark-sky session ended long before we would have liked. 

Congratulations are in order to our DSP Coordinator Sherrilyn Jahrig as well as Parks Canada’s Evelyn Henke for their planning and coordinating efforts to yet another successful DSP event. In 2009, we are looking to hold a higher profile event befitting the International Year of Astronomy.

Astotin Lake