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Educator, Friends of Cayo Costa working on ‘dark sky’ designation

By Staff | May 26, 2020

Cayo Costa State Park may acquire a new designation – thanks to the efforts of some of its friends.

Richard Finkel, an educator with Captiva Cruises who is also known for working with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, has been collaborating with the Friends of Cayo Costa State Park for the last year to get the island designated as an “International Dark Sky Place” on behalf of the park.

“We are applying to have Cayo Costa State Park designated as an Intentional Dark Sky Place through the International Dark-Sky Association,” he said, adding that the group is enthusiastic about it.

According to its Website, the International Dark-Sky Association works to protect the night skies for present and future generations. A recognized authority on light pollution and leading organization combating light pollution worldwide, its mission is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and heritage of dark skies through environmentally-responsible outdoor lighting.

The International Dark Sky Places conservation program recognizes and promotes excellent stewardship of the night sky. Founded in 2001, the award-winning program encourages communities, parks and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.

“The program promotes areas to preserve and protect dark skies,” Finkel said.

Currently, there are over 130 certified places in the world, but only two located in Florida: the Five Mile Prairie Trail at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, and Big Cypress National Preserve.

“The state park is certainly one of the premier state parks in Florida because of its location,” he said, explaining that Cayo Costa is not only a barrier island, it is one without a lot of artificial lighting.

“So it’s suitable to apply for the dark sky (designation),” Finkel added.

They began the application process about a year ago, but were aware of the program prior to that.

“It’s been on the radar for a few years,” he said of applying.

“When I conduct a Night Sky Astronomy program, I like to say that it is a universal and timeless fascination that people share,” Finkel added. “Our fascination with the night sky and to be mesmerized with what we see on a clear night without the influence of a artificial light.”

According to its Website, applications are reviewed bimonthly by an International Dark-Sky Association standing committee composed of dark sky experts and previously successful program applicants. Regular status updates ensure that designated places continue their commitment.

“The application process will take awhile,” he said. “It’s a lengthy process.”

They are currently gathering information and data required as part of the application.

“Lighting surveys, letters of support from the community,” Finkel said.

He noted that they hope to submit the completed application within the year.

Upon certification, the International Dark-Sky Association works with certified places to promote their work through media relations, member communications and social media, according to the site. The designation helps enhance the visibility of locations and foster increased tourism and economic activity.

For more information about Cayo Costa State Park and the Friends of Cayo Costa, visit www.friendsofcayocosta.org.