Southern Utah town of Torrey receives rare Dark Sky Community designation

Night sky stock image | Photo by Oneinchpunch, iStock / Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The tiny Southern Utah town of Torrey has been officially designated as an International Dark Sky Community, becoming one of only 18 communities in the world to enjoy the distinction.

The Milky Way arches over Capitol Reef National Park’s Chimney Rock, Wayne County, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Jacob W. Frank via International Dark Sky Association, St. George News

The town of approximately 240 people located just southwest of Capitol Reef National Park took several steps to preserve the night sky, allowing residents and visitors to enjoy a star-filled horizon without the distraction of light pollution.

The designation was awarded by the International Dark Sky Association, a nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Arizona, that advocates for the protection of the nighttime environment and dark night skies by educating policymakers and the public about night sky conservation.

When Capitol Reef National Park was designated as an International Dark Sky Park in 2015, Torrey residents and other Wayne County citizens also began working toward International Dark Sky Community status for Torrey.

“While those who came before us left us our dark night skies to love, now we leave a legacy to generations of future residents of this special place we proudly call home,” Torrey Mayor Scott Chestnut said in news release issued by the International Dark Sky Association. “We’ve often been accused of being ‘in the dark,’ but now we’re being honored for it!”

In a partnership with the Torrey-based Entrada Institute, citizens raised money to replace the town’s high-pressure sodium streetlights with dark sky-friendly, fully-shielded LED lights.

A brightness reading is performed during a monitoring event in Torrey, Utah, September 2017 | Photo courtesy of International Dark Sky Association, St. George News

A coalition of leaders supported the effort, including town council members, Torrey and Wayne County residents, local business owners and people from across the country.

“My 72-year-old heart skips a beat every time I see the glow of the Milky Way core rising from behind the silhouettes of hills where I know there is no nearby city to explain the intense brightness of this glowing,” Torrey resident Bonnie Kaufman said. “It is eerie, breathtaking and spiritual.”

To maintain its International Dark Sky Community status, Torrey must continue to preserve its night sky through education and awareness materials, dark sky events, exhibits and programs.

“As Torrey joins the IDA family today, together we take a major step forward in achieving an important goal of the International Dark Sky Places Program to join parks and neighboring communities in dedication to preserving their shared night skies,” International Dark Sky Association Executive Director J. Scott Feierabend said.

“Torrey has proven its commitment to protecting this resource for the benefit of both its residents and national park visitors,” Feierabend added.

An official celebration will be held in Torrey during the Heritage Star Festival Oct. 5-6.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • Mean Momma January 13, 2018 at 10:51 pm

    There really is nothing quite as spectacular and breathtaking as the night sky in complete darkness. I was blessed to be on a yacht in the middle of Lake Powell this past summer and was able to experience this first hand. If you’ve never experienced this type of darkness, I highly recommend you put this experience on your bucket list. Totally AMAZING!

  • RedRocks January 14, 2018 at 6:41 am

    Oh how I wish St George would take dark skies serious. With our clear desert air and so many clear nights, we should have access to dark skies as well. Seeing a truly dark sky and seeing the full majesty of the Milky Way should be the “norm”, and not on anyone’s “bucket list”. That is incredibly depressing.

  • jaybird January 14, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    An absolute beautiful display. Proud to know ppl care.

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