Guest: Aaron Watson, Director of Dark Skies Paonia
Download a high quality pdf of this article here
“Most people who live in and around Paonia are interested in preserving the rural character and quality of life that have existed for generations. City light pollution does not fit into the description of what they want their home to become.”
– Aaron Watson
Dark Skies Paonia
Dark Skies Paonia is a 501c3 non-profit organization working towards the goal of International Dark Sky Community Certification for the Town of Paonia, Colorado. Dark Skies Paonia was formed by a group of community members who enjoy the night sky but are frustrated with unshielded outdoor lighting shining into their homes at night. The group’s mission of community-wide dark-sky friendly lighting is gaining momentum through a variety of proactive measures.
Public Outreach Using Media
Since its start in spring of 2019, Dark Skies Paonia has hosted and attended multiple community events providing dark-sky-related public outreach and educational materials. The group has been interviewed by two local newspapers – The North Fork Merchant Herald and the Delta County Independent. Dark Skies Paonia has also been aired on two radio broadcasts, KDNK in Carbondale and KVNF in Paonia. In the cinema, they recently screened the film “Saving the Dark” to a packed house at the Paradise Theatre of Paonia which received a lot of positive support.
A Regional Effort
Paonia is a small municipality within a big rural county. Region-wide support for dark skies is important in order to keep the skies surrounding the small town dark at night. Dark Skies Paonia has been working to build awareness on the regional level by talking with the local energy company, Delta Montrose Electric Association (DMEA), in order to get IDA compliant, fully-shielded, less than 3000 Kelvin, streetlights installed in Paonia and the greater region.
Delta County is facing an influx of outside influences including Oil and Gas development and Agricultural Hemp production. These industries can have big impacts on surrounding neighborhoods and quality of life if pollution isn’t managed well – including light pollution. For this reason it is a crucial time for night-sky conservation in the region. Dark Skies Paonia is advocating for county-wide lighting regulations that would prevent people and industries from casting light onto adjacent land and diluting the night sky.
A Network of Observatories
Along with International Dark Sky Certification, Dark Skies Paonia is working to connect people to the stars by hosting star viewing parties throughout the area. The group is in the process of creating a network of community observatories to make celestial viewing accessible to multiple people whenever there is a clear dark sky. Dark Skies Paonia is seeking donations for observing equipment as well as parts for the observatory structures themselves. If you are interested in supporting their mission, or seeking International Dark Sky Certification for your own community, you can find out more on the Dark Skies Paonia website at www.darkskiespaonia.com.