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BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK — After 50 years of astronomy programming, Bryce Canyon National Park has another astronomy accolade.
The park was added to The International Dark-Sky Association list of International Dark Sky Parks, the park announced Tuesday. It joins Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef as national parks in Utah named on the list. It’s also the 12th Utah park added to the list of a few dozen parks in the world with the designation.
As park officials point out, the certification doesn’t carry any regulatory or legal authority.
The International Dark-Sky Association says parks on its list possess “exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, education, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.”
The parks on the list can either be on public or private land, as long as the owners agree to “the right of permanent, ongoing public access to specific areas included in the IDA designation,” according to its website.
Other Utah parks on the list include Antelope Island State Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Dead Horse Point State Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Goblin Valley State Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Steinaker State Park and Weber County North Fork Park.
While there aren’t any regulatory changes, Bryce Canyon National Park officials said it still carries a welcomed distinction. They said the Bryce Canyon Association, Ruby’s Inn, Bryce Canyon City and Garfield County Tourism Office all supported the certification process.
“We are very proud of this park’s efforts to conserve and celebrate the inspiring beauty of its night skies, and the International Dark-Sky Association’s recognition of over a decade of hard work to obtain this certification,” Linda Mazzu, Bryce Canyon National Park superintendent, said in a statement.
“As fewer and fewer people are able to enjoy natural wonders like the Milky Way, dark places and commitments to protect them are more important than ever. Our national parks are some of the best places in America to see a breathtaking array of stars, planets, and neighboring galaxies.”
The honor comes 50 years after the first stargazing programs were conducted at the park, according to the National Park Service. Stargazing has been a popular activity at the park since. In fact, in 2007 an asteroid was even named after Bryce Canyon National Park.
Park officials say they plan to host a special Dark-Sky Party on Aug. 31 to celebrate its latest achievement regarding the night sky. The event will include family-friendly daytime activities and evening programs before a ranger-guided telescope viewing.