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Prineville Reservoir State Park certified as ‘International Dark Sky Park’

Night camping under the stars at Prineville Reservoir State Park
Dawn Davis/Oregon State Parks
Night camping under the stars at Prineville Reservoir State Park

It's Oregon's first state park with that designation; Sunriver was first in the state

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) — The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and the Oregon Chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association announced Friday that Prineville Reservoir State Park is now a certified International Dark Sky Park, making it the newest addition to the association's Dark Sky Places Program.

Prineville Reservoir is the first Oregon state park and the second place in Oregon to be honored with the designation. The other is also in Central Oregon, as the community of Sunriver was named an International Dark Sky Place last year.

The certification recognizes the exceptional quality of the park’s night skies, as well as the park’s efforts to install responsible lighting and educate the public about light pollution. Prineville Reservoir joins only 174 locations worldwide that have followed a rigorous application process for Dark Sky certification.  

“We are proud to help protect the night skies above Prineville Reservoir from light pollution and share Oregon’s incredible dark sky with visitors who may not be able to see the Milky Way from home,” said OPRD Director Lisa Sumption. “This designation is the result of the hard work of the staff at Prineville Reservoir and builds on their longtime dedication to astronomy education.”

“This designation makes Prineville Reservoir a premier destination for stargazing, driving overnight visitation and drawing tourism dollars to the region while enhancing quality of life for residents,” said Bob Hackett, Associate Director of Travel Southern Oregon.

Prineville Reservoir State Park was selected for its expansive dark skies that connect the growing central Oregon city of Bend and population centers west of the Cascade Mountains to the vast starry skies that envelope southeastern Oregon. As part of the application process, park staff replaced harsh outdoor lights with softer yellow and red lighting that reduces skyglow.

“The park offers a genuine night-sky experience for those coming from light polluted cities,” said Bill Kowalik, chair of the Oregon Chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association. “Formal recognition of this International Dark Sky Park, located in rapidly growing central Oregon, will help to educate the public and decision makers about light pollution and the value of the night sky to people and to our greater wild ecosystem.”

The International Dark-Sky Association aims to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. 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 responsible lighting polices and public education.

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