Dark Sky Park
Mountainair, New Mexico, U.S.
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monuments is a 436- hectare (1,077-acre) historic site in central New Mexico, U.S., managed by the National Park Service. The Park preserves a series of structures built by colonizing Spanish missionaries in the seventeenth century on the site of the Native American communities inhabited by Tiwa- and Tompiro-language-speaking Puebloans since before first European contact almost a century before. The Park preserves a period of New Mexico’s early history in three units focused on mission churches: Quarai, Abó, and Gran Quivira. The latter unit also preserves the excavated ruins of the Las Humanas village, also known as the Gran Quivira Pueblo. The units span a range of about 40 km (25 miles) across the Salinas Basin near the modern town of Mountainair.
The Park is formally closed at night, although it is regularly open to supervised public access. Concerns about the security of the fragile adobe structures in each of the units, and the potential for damage or destruction by trespassers during the overnight hours, have led to the significant restriction of the use of outdoor lighting. All structural lighting in the park is on motion sensors, to the aid of park police who can more readily identify when people are present. It is an instance in which the demands of real security are balanced against the desire for dark-sky preservation, and a dark nighttime environment satisfies the concerns that usually result in dusk-to-dawn lighting in low-traffic areas.
Although the Park is within the outer light dome of the Albuquerque metropolitan area, its Silver-tier skies are an increasing draw for visitors who hear in interpretive programs about how the current night sky differs from what the natives saw before the Spanish conquest. The applicants have reached out beyond their boundaries to educate locals in this sparsely-populated part of the American southwest about the need to protect what natural darkness still remains at Salinas Pueblo.