story & photos by Madeleine Ahlborn |

AN easy going evening on CR12 with beers, peanuts and conversation around the preservation of our dark skies turned heads and opened eyes to the impact light has on the night. The long-term goal: to achieve the designation as an International Dark Sky Reserve for the Sangre de Cristo range and nearby towns.

Dani Robben is one of the main project leaders and a connecting point between the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) and the San Luis Valley Community via her position as community connections coordinator on the SLV GO! team. Wonderful volunteers Bob and Carol Bohley had enthusiastic conversations with visitors and locals alike. 

Here is a short video of what the evening entailed: 

QUESTION: Isn’t the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve already a recognized Dark Sky Reserve? 

Answer: YES! From the park’s website; “In 2019, Great Sand Dunes became certified as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association, meeting strict standards for sky darkness, limiting outdoor lighting, and working with neighboring communities to reduce light pollution.” 

SLV GO! and collaborative entities’ intention is to continue to expand the range of this dark sky certification to encompass the majority of the Sangre de Cristo range and towns that fall within the boundary lines. 

‘The purpose of this project is to protect and steward the region’s night sky through responsible lighting policies and public education.’ 

attendees look at a map with an outline of the dark sky area

THIS initiative is not saying we can’t have lights on at night. Rather, iit creates a mindful approach around different ways to shield our outdoor lights to hinder upward rays that interrupt our view of the stars and on some nights, seeing the Milky Way. 

This project of expanding the ring of the dark sky reserve not only means spreading the word about why it is important, but also explaining how communities will reach the strict standards to achieve the dark sky certification from IDA. Download some examples of good outdoor lighting fixtures HERE.

The plan, according to SLV GO!, is this: “The Sangre de Cristo Dark Sky Reserve will encompass the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness managed by the U.S. Forest Service, public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and will include parts of eight counties in south-central Colorado including Alamosa, Saguache, Chaffee, Fremont, Custer, Huerfano, Las Animas, and Costilla counties. The region’s high altitude, dry climate, rurality, and huge swath of public lands is conducive to natural darkness and exceptional sky quality.”

Ongoing research and data are being collected from towns within the ring of proposed reserve expansion, both on the amount of electricity used and on the light being produced. Fun fact: In November of 2021 the town of Blanca adopted a new lighting ordinance following IDA standards. Change can happen. Change happens one conversation at a time, talking one-on-one with community members, through events such as this stargazing social, to bring awareness and gain signatures of support for this initiative

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