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Springdale is a community in southern Utah, and is the gateway to Zion National Park. This designation represents many years of concerted effort by the residents, businesses, Town staff and elected officials of Springdale to preserve the night sky.
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Springdale is nestled between the majestic sandstone cliffs of Zion Canyon. Home to about 600 permanent residents, it welcomes millions of visitors each year who come to enjoy Zion National Park. Aside from being a popular tourist destination, Springdale is also a thriving community of neighbors who are dedicated to preserving what makes their town special. This includes the night sky.
Zion Canyon has a long history of human settlement, dating back thousands of years. Over this time, it has been home to the Anasazi, and later the Paiute and Ute Tribes. The modern settlement of Springdale began in the 1860s when Latter-day Saint pioneers established a farming community on the banks of the North Fork of the Virgin River. Springdale was eventually incorporated as a Town in 1959.
Although visited by John Wesley Powell in 1872 as part of his expeditions to the Grand Canyon area, few came to Zion Canyon until the establishment of Zion National Park in 1919. Visitor growth to the Park has increased steadily ever since, reaching more than 5 million people in 2021. With an awareness that the majority of these visitors also come to Springdale, the Town has long since made a priority of careful planning of its growth and development. This includes planning for the preservation of the night sky, for the benefit of both humans and wildlife in the Canyon.
Springdale’s elevation, proximity to Zion and relative remoteness from large metropolitan areas means that it is a wonderful place for stargazing. However, given the immense pressure for tourism related development in Springdale, the Town realized that the night sky could quickly be eroded by increased artificial light pollution. With strong support from its residents, the Town has taken action over the last several years to reverse light pollution and preserve the night sky.
In consultation with DarkSky Internationalthe International Dark Sky Association, the Town has adopted outdoor lighting ordinances which require homes and businesses to use dark-sky compliant lighting. The Town has also promoted awareness of the value of the night sky by holding stargazing telescope events, and publishing related articles in the Town Newsletter. As part of making the application to become a Dark Sky Community, the Town also carried out an extensive round of sky quality monitoring. All of these things contributed to Springdale’s successful certification as a Dark Sky Community.
“Dark skies are a blessing to myriad species of migratory birds who will be less likely to lose their way, and nighttime pollinators, the insects and bats, will thrive. And what a gift to the canyon residents and the millions of visitors to Zion National Park who can now gaze upward to see the full splendor of the Milky Way as it sweeps from canyon rim to canyon rim! Thank you for the return of dark night skies to Zion Canyon.” Louise Excell, resident of Springdale
“I applaud the efforts the Town of Springdale has put into protecting our amazing night sky by receiving the International Dark Sky designation. How fortunate we are to share with the millions of visitors who visit a dark sky that is full of stars complete with a Milky Way - something many people have never experienced. Dark skies are critical to the natural environment, enrich all of our lives and give us a sense of wonder of who we are in the universe. The threat to dark sky’s is real, it looms on our horizons and I’m so grateful Springdale and its supporters recognize this by securing this special designation.” Jack Burns, resident of Springdale and Town Council member
Looking to the future, Springdale will maintain these efforts so that its residents can continue to be inspired by the night sky, and that the Canyon’s wildlife can continue to thrive. The Town also aspires to welcome visitors who are not only awed by the Canyon’s majestic day-time beauty, but stay to experience the stars at night. Springdale also looks forward to strengthening existing ties with other dark sky communities, to exchange knowledge and ideas.
About the International Dark Sky Places Program: The International Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 as a non-regulatory and voluntary program to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through effective lighting policies, environmentally responsible outdoor lighting, and public education. When used indiscriminately, artificial light can disrupt ecosystems, impact human health, waste money and energy, contribute to climate change, and block our view and connection to the universe. The Town of Springdale now joins more than 200 Places that have demonstrated outstanding community support for dark sky advocacy and strive to protect the night from light pollution. Learn more by visiting www.darksky.org/conservation/idsp.
About DarkSky International: The mission of DarkSky is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. Learn more at darksky.org