There’s currently a movement underway to establish a dark skies park, an area designated as dark enough to get an unobstructed view of the night sky, at Bark Camp Lake in nearby Scott County, between Coeburn and Dungannon.
In a study published last year in “Science Advances,” it was found that 80 percent of Americans do not have access to an unobstructed view of the night sky. This makes a dark sky park an uncommon and sought after location for star enthusiasts, researchers and those in academia.
Local Eagle Scout Daniel Rose, a 15-year-old sophomore at Eastside High School in Wise County, has been pushing for the dark sky park with the aid of Wise County Clerk of Court Jack Kennedy and the rest of Boy Scouts Troop 301. The dark sky park would offer research and learning opportunities for students at UVa-Wise and local schools, but also give the potential for tourism based revenue. Rose and others associated with the idea have also spoke of the possibility of establishing a dark skies festival in October to draw revenue and visitors to the area.
Now, local officials and members of the college community have also taken notice and are expressing their support for what they see as a valuable opportunity for the local area. Lucian Undreiu, associate professor of physics and chief operator of UVa-Wise’s observatory, recently wrote a letter of support for the establishment of the dark sky park.
“I believe that the Thomas Jefferson Dark Sky Festival and International Dark Sky Park Designation will draw not only tourists,” stated Undreiu in his letter of support. “But astronomers from all over to celebrate the beauty and wonder of the unadulterated night sky.”
Recently, local members of the Virginia General Assembly also introduced a joint resolution in support of the measure on Feb. 10, including Delegates Terry Kilgore (R-Va1), Israel O’Quinn (R-Va5) and Todd Pillion (R-Va4), and Senators Charles Carrico (R-Va40) and Ben Chafin (R-Va38). In the resolution, legislators cite strong “community-based support” from local religious, civic, government, academic and business organizations and leaders.
Other officials and groups expressing support include: U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va), Southwestern Virginia Technology Council, Wise County Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Mullins, Norton City Schools Interim Superintendent Gina Wohlford and Editor-in-Chief of the Highland Cavalier Andrew Hamilton.