The International Dark-Sky Association proudly awarded the first ever Dark Sky Development of Distinction Award to the Town of Harmony, Florida at the 6th Annual Dark Sky Festival at Harmony on Saturday, April 25, 2009. On hand to present the award were IDA Board member, Audrey Fischer, and IDA Florida Section Leader, George Fleenor.
The Dark Sky Development of Distinction Award is a new award designated by IDA to promote subdivisions, master planned communities, and unincorporated townships whose planning actively promotes a more natural night sky but does not qualify for the International Dark Sky Community (IDSCommunity) award. This award differs from the IDSCommunity designation in that it is applicable to smaller, unincorporated areas and emphasizes planning and enforcement over sky quality (although great sky quality is a definite bonus). In order to qualify for the award, developments must have a comprehensive lighting scheme, exhibit developer and resident commitment to night sky protection, and achieve success in light pollution control.
"Harmony, FL exemplifies the Dark Sky Development of Distinction," says Kim Patten, Programs Director at the International Dark Sky Association. "Harmony was developed with the goal of incorporating and protecting nature into the elements of the urban design. With this premise, they were one of the first master planned communities to consider the night sky in this equation. It's with great pleasure that we are finally recognizing their efforts in night sky preservation."
"On behalf of the town of Harmony and the Harmony Institute, we are honored to receive this award from the International Dark-Sky Association," said Greg Golgowski, Harmony's full-time Conservation Director. "We feel it's extremely important for people to have perspective and appreciation for the night sky and hope other communities will follow our lead."
Having been featured at the IDA Annual Meeting in 2007 as well as the recent November 2008 National Geographic magazine cover story "The End of Night" as one of the top communities for dark sky preservation, Harmony, FL has long been a leader in promotions of quality outdoor lighting and a great quality of life. Now in their 6th year, Harmony has been hosting a Dark Sky Festival to "expose the general public to the marvels of astronomy and the importance of protecting dark skies - not just for astronomy purposes, but also for the values that darkness provides to area wildlife." The last Festival, hosted April 25, 2009 attracted over 4,000 attendees. Adding to the experience of the festival are Harmony's low lighting level streets, sidewalks, and residences which help protect the Harmony Town Square, a Class 4 sky on the Bortle Dark Sky Scale. Harmony is also home to an observing site used by the Brevard, Central Florida and Melbourne astronomical societies.
Due to Harmony's efforts and through the support of the Osceola County Commissioners, work toward adoption of an improved ordinance requiring new lighting in the County to be protective of dark skies has been initiated. In a county that includes portions of Walt Disney World and has extensive brightly lit tourist commercial uses, this was a significant event in itself. In addition, all County facilities are being examined for retrofitting to better protect the night sky.
The Award was presented at the 6th annual Dark Sky Festival (www.darkskyfestival.com) following a presentation by Audrey Fischer and George Fleenor on the importance of protecting our natural night. Audrey added, "Thank you Harmony for being the living example of a lovely community that is one with nature."
The IDA hopes that other developments will apply for this award during the UNESCO sponsored International Year of Astronomy 2009. Requirements and application materials are available by contacting the International Dark-Sky Association at +1 (520)293-3198.
About International Dark-Sky Association:
The IDA is a 501 c3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies. Headquartered in Tucson, AZ with a branch office in Washington, DC and satellite offices in Hever, Belgium and Turramurra, Australia IDA has membership in 70 countries. More information can be found at www.darksky.org or by calling 520-293-3198.