Saguaro National Park recently became the first site in Arizona to be designated an Urban Night Sky Place by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
This recognition highlights the park’s efforts to promote exceptional nighttime experiences despite its proximity to extensive artificial lighting from the Tucson area.
Spanning over 94,000 acres on the western and eastern outskirts of Tucson, Saguaro National Park contains a pristine slice of Sonoran Desert. The IDA Urban Night Sky Place program certifies parks, preserves and communities situated near major cities that actively work to foster authentic nighttime views and raise awareness about light pollution.
According to the park’s press release, Tucson and Pima County have been at the forefront of combatting light pollution for decades. “Tucson was the first city in the world to pass an ordinance addressing light pollution for space observation,” the release stated. These efforts by local authorities have been critical in enabling Saguaro to achieve its new status.
The Urban Night Sky Place designation is part of a broader movement spearheaded by the IDA to mitigate the harmful effects of artificial nighttime lighting. Such lighting can negatively impact ecosystems, human health, energy consumption and climate change. Sites that earn this elite certification have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to dark sky advocacy and minimizing local light pollution through regulations, education and sustainable infrastructure planning.
In addition to Saguaro National Park, the IDA has so far recognized only eight other Urban Night Sky Places globally:
- Joya-La Barreta Ecological Park (Mexico)
- Minami-Rokuroshi (Japan)
- Parc du Mont-Bellevue (Canada)
- Fry Family Park (Ohio)
- Stacy Park (Missouri)
- Palos Preserves (Illinois)
- Timpanogos Cave National Monument (Utah)
- Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge (New Mexico).
Park officials announced that a series of community events would take place in early 2024 to commemorate Saguaro’s new status as southern Arizona’s premier destination for experiencing the wonders of the night sky. The events will educate visitors about the park’s nocturnal animals, astronomy programs and efforts to expand IDA’s Urban Night Sky Place program to other parks and protected areas across the country.