January 23, 2018 at 5:35 am
A full moon illuminates the night sky over the Fountain Hills fountain. | Rob Mains / Courtesy of International Dark-Sky Association
The town of Fountain Hills, on the edge of the Phoenix area, is best known for its namesake 560-foot water feature. Now, it's getting worldwide recognition for something even higher in the sky.
The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has named Fountain Hills an International Dark Sky Community. It's the 17th city or town worldwide to receive that honor; it's also only the second such community to be located near a major metropolitan area. The IDA works to preserve areas of darkness so that stars, galaxies and other celestial wonders remain visible at night.
Scott Feierabend, the IDA's executive director, called the designation "an important moment for the movement to preserve dark skies in the American West."
A group of Fountain Hills citizens, who later formed the Fountain Hills Dark Sky Association, began pursuing the designation three years ago, partly out of concern that the advent of bright LED lights would contribute to light pollution. As a result of the group's efforts, the town's outdoor lighting and sign ordinances were updated to address new causes of light pollution.
Mayor Linda Kavanagh said the town has pursued dark-sky-friendly policies since its incorporation in 1989. Many residents attend local star parties or even maintain domed observatories in their backyards.
Arizona's other International Dark Sky Communities are Flagstaff, Sedona, the Village of Oak Creek and the Kaibab Paiute Tribe's land. The IDA also designates International Dark Sky Parks, and that list includes several sites in Arizona. In addition to Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Canyon-Parashant, Wupatki, Sunset Crater and Walnut Canyon national monuments are on the list, as are Oracle and Kartchner Caverns state parks.