Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, which covers over 5,000 square miles, is to be the setting for the first-ever international Dark Sky Park conference to be held in Europe. The event, from 20-22 September 2017, will bring together some of the world’s top dark-sky experts with the aim of promoting rural development, tourism and tackling light pollution issues. Astronomers, town planners, lighting specialists, environmentalist and academics will attend the international conference to discuss the benefits that Dark Sky status can bring. The conference is being organized by Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, the International Dark Sky Association and Forest Enterprise Scotland, which manages the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park.
Keith Muir, Forest Enterprise Scotland’s Visitor Services Manager for the area, said: “Galloway Forest Park was the first area in Europe to achieve Dark Sky Park status and we are keen to share our experience and learn from others by being the first in Europe to host such a major conference. This is really good news for putting the south west of Scotland on the map as an international stargazing destination. All the partners involved will be working together to ensure the conference is a success and showcases Galloway as a great place to live, work and play. We’re very excited about this major event and the potential spin offs it should create for the local economy.”
The conference detail is being brought together over the coming months and will ensure that delegates have an opportunity to promote the International Dark Sky Places Program. Another aim of the conference is to educate and inform attendees about the issues that light pollution is causing on a global scale.
Forming the heart of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere, the Galloway Forest Park is equal in size to about 75,000 football pitches and received Dark Sky Status in November 2009. The park is a commercial working forest that is also home to amazing wildlife, stunning wilderness and hosts fantastic walking and biking trails. Estimates indicate that nearly one million people visit Galloway Forest Park each year.
Joan Mitchell, Chair of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere, explained: “The Dark Sky Park is an integral part of the Biosphere; between them they offer a 24/7 attraction in south west Scotland, offering the opportunity to celebrate and explore the regions landscapes and wildlife during the day and the dark skies at night. Hosting Europe’s first ever Dark Sky Park conference is a fantastic opportunity to help put this often-overlooked corner of Scotland on the map.”
John Barentine of the IDA added: “It is a testament to the momentum behind the global effort to recognize and protect dark skies worldwide that this international conference is to be held. Further, it is especially fitting that the event will be held near Galloway Forest, where it can be said the movement scored its first major victory for dark skies preservation in Europe. The International Dark-Sky Association is proud to have a seat at the table for this important gathering.”