For release February 27, 2019:
Small Western Colorado Town Receives
International Recognition for Dark Sky
NORWOOD, Colorado – Feb. 21, 2019 – After almost 3 years of hard work on the part of a small team of volunteers in Norwood, Colorado, the International Dark-Sky Association has designated their town as the newest International Dark Sky Community. This is the first International Dark-Sky Association “Dark Sky Community” on the Western Slope of Colorado and only the second in the State. There are now 22 International Dark Sky Communities; 15 in the US and others in Canada, Denmark, Germany, Scotland, and the U.K.
The team, Norwood Dark Sky Advocates, is Co-Chaired by Creighton Wood and Bob Grossman. They point out that approximately 80% of the world’s population can no longer see the Milky Way due to the high levels of light pollution in cities and industrialized remote landscapes. In Norwood you can see the Milky Way year ‘round, even the faintest parts; in the summer you can see it even before the end of twilight. The rest of the sky is truly glorious too.
Norwood is a small town in southwest Colorado, population 518, at an altitude of 7,000 ft (2,134m). Situated in a high desert climate it has very dry conditions creating many days and nights with clear skies. Its remote location and sparse population produce very little light pollution. Norwood is surrounded by distant mountains and plateaus that shield it from the few, distant urban light sources.
To quote David Elmore, Astronomer Emeritus, National Solar Observatory and Board Member of the Longmont (Colorado) Astronomical Society, “My visit to Norwood was the first time I witnessed a sky that is so dark clouds are black against the stars. … It was possible for me to easily view the Milky Way from within Norwood itself”.
The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) was started in 1988. Its Mission: to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. IDA achieves its goal by educating the public to the many damaging effects of light pollution, encouraging people to use non-light polluting shading and setup for outdoor lighting, and by having governmental organizations adopt ordinances that reduce or eliminate Light Pollution.
IDA began its Dark Sky Site Program in 2001 that certifies Dark-Sky Communities, Parks, Reserves, Sanctuaries and Developments of Distinction. They grade prospective communities on 3 major aspects: Community Support, measuring the interest of the local government, businesses and townspeople; Scientific Measurement of the darkness; and local government adopting Local Ordinances and land-use codes that require all new outdoor lighting to be IDA-Compliant, a set of stringent requirements for shading and light color and intensity.
Adam Dalton, IDA Dark Sky Places Director writes, “I am pleased to welcome the town of Norwood, CO into the International Dark-Sky Places Program. As one of the quickly-growing number of Dark-Sky Places designated on the Colorado Plateau; Norwood's policies and community actions will help to protect and preserve the region's incredible night skies for years to come. Further, I would like to thank the Norwood Dark-Sky Advocates for their tireless efforts; without them, this project would likely have not been possible.”
This designation and the recent dramatic increase in Astro-Tourism will hopefully inspire people to visit Norwood to see an amazing night sky few in the world now enjoy. Amateur Astronomers visit Dark Sky sites because they can observe very faint celestial objects.
Chairman Woody Wood and Bob Grossman - Norwood Dark Sky Advocate.
The Norwood Dark Sky Advocates are absolutely thrilled!
We received a grant from the Paradox Community Trust that will get us really rolling on all our projects. We can’t thank the PCT enough for this gift.
The first thing we’re going to do is to purchase a couple of Sky Quality Meters or SQMs. An SQM gives us a consistent measure of just how dark the sky is, giving us a meaningful number that we can use to compare the sky at different locations. We’ve been using a unit borrowed from the Black Canyon Astronomical Society in Montrose allowed us to get used to the meters and to start our Sky Quality Measurement Project. You may know that we are trying to get the Norwood Area designated as an International Dark sky Association (IDA) “Dark Sky Community.” To do that we must prove how dark and beautiful our nights are. We know they’re incredible, but the SQMs will give us the proof we need to convince IDA that we are a very special place - a place that city dwellers will want to visit and see for themselves; spending those tourist dollars here too.
We will be purchasing informational materials to help us show the citizens of Wright’s Mesa what we are trying to accomplish. We’ll be showing that helping to preserve the area’s heritage of a beautiful dark sky can be directly beneficial. By using the IDA guidelines we keep light where it’s needed, increase the efficiency of existing lighting and save money on the electric bill.
We’re planning late spring and summer events. We will be hosting more Telescope Workshops like the one in December in the coming months. We hope to have a first Wright’s Mesa Star Party this summer or fall to show people the wonders of the night-time sky. Stay tuned for more on these activities soon.
Val Szwarc, an amateur astronomer in Ridgway, has taken on the Sky Quality Measurement Project with gusto. He has worked with others in the group, primarily Bob Grossman, to create a plan to measure our Sky Quality and to ensure that we collect the data easily, quantitatively and correctly. Val has done a couple of data collection trial runs and is close to having the process settled. We thank Val for all the work he has done and continues to do on this most important project for the Norwood Dark Sky Advocates.
The Norwood Dark Sky Advocates are working with the Lone Cone Library District, helping in the design of the outdoor lighting for the new library for compliance with IDA guidelines. The new library will be a showcase for Norwood and the surrounding area and will show everyone that keeping the sky dark is worthwhile and easily doable. We support the library going for a NASA grant for a telescope and other science materials and equipment to use in the Norwood area.
Does any of this article speak to you? Do you want to be part of it? Do you want to help us keep Norwood’s sky as beautiful as it is? Well, we need help from you.
We need volunteers that will learn to use the SQMs and collect the Sky Quality data for our IDA designation.
We need letters of support from you, our neighbors and friends that will benefit from the Norwood area’s designation as a Dark Sky Community.
Please contact us:
Phone: Creighton Wood - 970-729-0981 or Bob Grossman - 970-901-6717
Norwood’s Dark Sky Certification Challenge: How are we doing so far? Great!!
As I waited for my turn at last week’s Volunteer Celebration, I realized a lot had been done since this column last gave a status report about Norwood’s Dark Sky Certification Project. First a little history. Last Spring Town Clerk Gretchen Wells and I, independently and a day apart, emailed the International Dark Sky Association asking what it took to become a Dark Sky town. Shortly thereafter Gretchen and I contacted Westcliff-Slivercliffe Dark Sky Community and got some guidance. Then we met at Town Hall with a few interested citizens, including Creighton “Woody” Wood, a bona fide amateur astronomer, and began to plan for certification. Gretchen said she wanted to continue interest but Town duties, other community involvement, and family overruled her time to spend with Dark Sky. Woody and I took the lead.
Through a friend on the Front Range, I got an invite to the Longmont Astronomical Society (LAS) and gave a short talk on our aspirations, inviting one and all to visit and see for themselves. One did; more about that later. Woody and I became members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society (BCAS) based in Montrose; they were instrumental in getting Black Canyon National Park designated as a Dark Sky Park. We attended a meeting and, once again, invited one and all to come see us. One did.
I found that Brady Barkemeyer, then a Norwood High Senior, was about to go to CU to study aerospace engineering; his dad, Eric, was also an amateur astronomer. In order to include the community and get feedback, The Norwood Post agreed to publish a weekly (now monthly) column about our progress and the wonders of the night sky. Brady and I started writing the Star Story columns. Woody, Brady, and I made presentations to the Town Board, Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Chamber of Commerce. We were strongly encouraged to proceed. Woody began showing up at the summertime Farmer’s Market getting more positive feedback.
Because Brady is a CU freshman and I’m retired faculty, CU agreed to support Norwood Dark Sky and now we have this website. We have a progress chart, Q & A and all sorts of celestial info.
In September Dr. David Elmore (LAS) and Val Szwarc (BCAS) visited Norwood with telescopes and loaner Sky Quality Meters (SQM) from both Societies. An SQM measures how dark the sky is; 22 units is the darkest you can get. We had a “test” Star Party at Pinon Wood Ranch. David completed the first deep space photograph from Wrights Mesa, the Andromeda Galaxy, which was published in the Post (also on the website). While David was manning his telescope he took some SQM readings; they bunched around 21.50 but one was 21.88! He also really liked our hospitality; a good report went back to LAS. I took an SQM to my Deer Mesa cabin; 21.45 consistently. Dark out here.
Sometime in October, I contacted Sarah Holbrooke at Pinhead and they agreed to share their 501c3 IRS status with us to facilitate grants and fund-raising. Woody and I formed a Board that included Andrew Kauffman, Val Szwarc, and Sonny Lopez. US Bank provided a free bank account and the US Postal Service provided a free post office box. We were official as the Norwood Dark Sky Advocates!
We had an initial Telescope Workshop, reported in the Post, to show off local equipment and astronomers. Woody and I also met with Matt Zumstein, the new Forest Service Manager, and he endorsed our effort; we plan to look for observing spots on FS land.
The Town’s Tim Lippert took me around to Town-owned property so I could return one night to see how dark they were for an SQM observation program needed for certification. If anyone noticed a car skulking around the other night and a guy jumping out with a clipboard, that was me. Thanks for not calling in the Marshall.
Recently, the Norwood Dark Sky Advocates submitted a grant to the Paradox Community Trust for SQM purchase and outreach funding. I ran into Ross Busby at the Volunteer Celebration and found out the Library was considering a STEM grant to NASA, including a check-out telescope! Woody is meeting with them soon to look into a collaborative program and grant submission.
Now we need volunteers and support letters!!! Get in touch with us via NorwoodDarkSky@gmail.com, 970-327-0375, or 970-901-6717. Norwood Dark Sky Community is on the way!
Norwood began to seriously consider an IDA Dark Sky certification when, simultaneously and independently, Town Clerk Gretchen Welles and Part-time resident Bob Grossman both made inquiries to the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) in the Spring of 2016. Encouraged by the replies from IDA, Bob and Gretchen got together to explore and begin the process. Bob involved local astronomer, Crieghton "Woody" Wood and Norwood High student, Brady Barkemeyer into the effort. After some recruiting and talk-around-town, a few afternoon meetings of interested citizens were hosted by the Town that showed Norwood was in a position to go ahead with the application. Woody and Bob became members of IDA and nominated Norwood for certification. Bob and Brady contacted Regan Renee, Norwood Post editor, and arranged for a weekly "Star Stories" column to let the public know our intentions and educate citizens about the Universe they see on a clear night. Brady took the initiative to create a website to enhance our effort and was a repository for Star Stories archive also providing for questions to be answered; that website has now been transferred to the Univ. Colorado, where Brady is a freshman studying Aerospace Engineering and Bob is a retired Senior Research Associate from Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.
Through a friend in Boulder, Bob's other residence, Bob was able to address the Longmont Astronomical Society (LAS) providing positive feedback from members and an interest in some to explore this new area in SW Colorado. Recently Bob and Woody became members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society (BCAS) based in Montrose, CO, attending a meeting and telling them of our intentions. In early Sept 2016 David Elmore, a retired solar physicist and LAS member and Val Szwarc, a retired NOAA meteorologist and BCAS member, contacted Bob for a scouting mission during the New Moon period later in the month. Both LAS and BCAS loaned Sky Quality Meters (SQM) that quantify sky darkness for the trip. A small gathering occurred just prior to a storm moving in at Woody's Pinon Wood Ranch SE of Norwood where he had set up a viewing area, complete with solar powered inverter for off-grid power for the telescope clock drives and computers; this area showed very dark on IDA maps of global darkness. It was a success as a cloudy day dissolved into a spectacularly clear sky. With a limit of 22 units SQM readings between 21.38 and 21.88 were made, generally around 21.45; the wide range may have been due to the presence of the Milky Way overhead and the field of view of the two instruments (60o and 20o, respectively). Later 20o FOV measurements avoiding the Milky Way at Bob's cabin N of Norwood, and some distance from Pinon Wood Ranch, were also in the 21.45 range with less spread.
IDA and David Elmore strongly suggested that our effort becomes legal so we could raise funds and provide liability for visitors. Bob got in touch with Sarah Holbrooke, Director, Pinhead Institute (Telluride) and was able to obtain inclusion in their operation in order to fall under the Pinhead IRS 501c3 designation. Shortly after the meeting Bob, Woody, and Gretchen met electing Woody as Acting Chair of a yet to be formed Board. Board members are actively being recruited at this time and an initial Board meeting will be called in the near future to elect officers and decide on a name for this effort.