Dark skies to be preserved at Kejimkujik
Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia could soon be part of a unique group of protected lands known for its night skies.
The Halifax chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has approached Parks Canada officials at Kejimkujik to discuss the potential of the park as a dark sky preserve.
Jonathan Sheppard, a Parks Canada official with Kejimkujik, said the society's goals to protect the night sky and educate people about it are shared by the park.
"With a dark sky preserve, we're protecting not only the night sky for viewing but we're also protecting nocturnal ecology," he said. "Giving the night back to things like bats and birds and salamanders and insects. There's a good fit there."
According to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, a dark sky preserve is a site with "very dark skies and virtually no sky glow on the horizon." There are at least 10 such designated sites in Canada.
"The sky is part of the environment," said Dave Chapman of the Royal Astronomical Society. "We're familiar with clean water and clean air, and we always forget about the sky."
Sheppard said Kejimkujik has some of the darkest skies on the eastern seaboard, making it an ideal location for a dark sky preserve.
"If you look at a light map of eastern North America, Keji is located right in the centre of southwestern Nova Scotia," he said. "If you look at that sort of on a continental scale, it's a really dark spot."
He said some members of the society had been to the park to do light audits and measure the amount of ambient light at the location.
"The readings that they got from here in Keji were already among some of the best that they had taken in the eastern part of Canada, and as good as in some places that are already dark sky preserves," Sheppard said.
As dark as Kejimkujik already gets at night, Sheppard said the park must make several changes before it can get the preserve status.
Some lights in parking lots and washrooms, for example, will have to be modified so they reflect downward and are properly shrouded.
Sheppard said making all of those changes could take up to three years, but with a plan and a commitment in place, Kejimkujik could receive the designation as early as this spring.
"If you're here at night, you can see the Milky Way clearly, which is a breathtaking sight," he said.
"It's nice because there are so many lakes and rivers in Keji as well, that gives you an expansive sky, but also when you're on the beach, the whole starry sky is reflected in the lake below, too."