SPRINGDALE, Washington County — Utah's most-visited park has a new designation.
The International Dark-Sky Association on Thursday announced that Zion National Park is its newest International Dark Sky Park. With the announcement, all five national parks in Utah now have received the status, which is given to the best parks in the world to view the night sky.
But receiving the dark sky status doesn't just mean that a park has a great view of the night sky, but work is actively being done to ensure that night sky views are preserved. Over the past 20 years, the International Dark-Sky Association awards dark sky park status to places around the globe that aim to preserve dark sky viewing and reduce light pollution. It argues that combatting light pollution has positive effects on wildlife and ecosystems.
Zion National Park worked with several different communities, agencies and organizations during the application process.
"We value the beauty of our night sky and understand the need to protect it in a collaborative effort," said Springdale Mayor Stanley Smith. "We applaud and wholeheartedly support Zion's efforts to preserve this ethereal gem."
Park officials said Thursday that they plan to celebrate by having all ranger-led programming focused on a night theme next week.
The designation of Zion National Park Thursday also adds to the growing number of parks and communities in Utah designated as dark sky places.
It becomes the 22nd national, state and local dark sky park in Utah. Earlier this year, the International Dark-Sky Association granted dark sky status to Fremont Indian State Park and Museum in Sevier County, Goosenecks State Park in San Juan County, Jordanelle State Park in Wasatch County, Kodachrome Basin State Park in Garfield County and Rockport State Park in Summit County.
It's also just the 15th U.S. national park to receive dark sky status — with Utah accounting for one-third of all U.S. national parks that have received dark sky recognition from the association.