PENFIELD, Ill. — A forest preserve in central Illinois is making specific lighting changes that have it poised to become the state’s first certified Dark-Sky Park.

The Champaign County Forest Preserve District submitted its application this month to the International Dark-Sky Association for the designation for Middle Fork River Forest Preserve, the News-Gazette reported.

“It looks pretty promising,” said David Leake, director of Parkland’s Staerkel Planetarium.

The Dark-Sky Places Program began in 2001 “to encourage communities around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education,” according to the association’s website. The program’s designations include dark-sky communities, parks, reserves, sanctuaries and developments. Each distinction has its own set of requirements to receive the title.

There are only 55 of those parks in the world. Fewer than 40 of them are in the U.S., according to the association.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports that forest preserve district officials have already created a lighting inventory and swapped out some aging globe street lights with energy-efficient ones that direct illumination down to only where it’s needed.

The next step is creating a management plan with specific goals, which should be met within six months when the last of the old street lights are replaced, said Matt Kuntz, superintendent of Middle Fork, which is near Penfield.

The designation would open up a new avenue of public education and outreach opportunities at the forest preserve, said Lisa Sprinkle, the forest preserve district’s marketing director.

“We offer the sky to the public,” Kuntz said. “I had never looked at it that way.”


Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com