Goldendale Observatory loses prestigious Dark Sky Park status
GOLDENDALE — With a $1.5 million state-funded renovation set to begin next month and a newly reconfigured telescope that gives visitors much better views of the night sky, things are looking up at Goldendale Observatory State Park.So why was it quietly dropped from the International Dark-Sky Association’s list of Dark Sky Parks late last year?Well, that’s kind of complicated. The Dark Sky Park designation, bestowed on the park in 2010 after a yearlong effort from the nonprofit group Friends of the Goldendale Observatory, made it unique in Washington. There are no other Dark Sky Parks in the state, and only 33 others in the country. So it’s a badge of honor, designating the place as one of the country’s best to observe the night sky.But with that designation came responsibility. The park is obligated to include educational programming about light pollution, display International Dark-Sky Association signage, maintain approved lighting on its grounds and file annual reports to the association about all of those efforts. Lately, there have been questions about whether its staff has lived up to those obligations.“There are some issues with the park we’re trying to work out right now,” said John Barentine, program manager for the Tucson, Ariz.-based IDA. “And we decided the best thing to do was to suspend, without prejudice, the status.”Those issues — whether the park’s annual reports to the IDA were up to snuff, whether there was adequate signage designating the park as a Dark Sky Park, and whether park staff were fully committed to maintaining the status — came to a head in November. That’s when Bob Yoesle, a dark-skies advocate and president of the Friends of the Goldendale Observatory, contacted the IDA alleging the observatory was out of compliance.