The Nanaimo Astronomy Society (NAS) has its sights set on Ladysmith as the perfect location for an urban park for star gazers.
“From your point of view we believe it’s minimal effort just beyond agreeing in principle that you like the idea of having the park…,” said president Chris Boar, delegating at last week’s city council meeting.
Presently, there are only two urban star parks in Canada, the closest one being in Victoria at Cattle Point.
Star park designations are given by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and parks must be accesible 24/7.
The Nanaimo group had suggested an area on Ladysmith’s waterfront, but was unaware it is on Crown land.
Mayor Aaron Stone said the area identified is also part of the waterfront planning process currently underway.
“There are other areas that may be feasible on the south side of Transfer Beach Park,” Stone said.
“There is a significant desire, at least at this point, to enhance that area and make it more usable by the community.”
A requirement of an urban star park is either to have minimal lighting, or none at all.
Municipalities also typically have passed bylaws to protect the area from light pollution.
“It’s the natural resource of the dark night sky that we’re starting to lose,” Boar said.
“You have to drive a way out now to be able to get a good view of the night sky.”
The group has set out to create another star park on Vancouver Island, whether here in Ladysmith or elsewhere.
In terms of popularity, the Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics in Saanich is the largest astronomical engineering division in Canada.
There’s also five astronomy groups on the island that hold ‘star parties’ in the summer.
Boar said having an urban star park could be a “point of pride” for the community.
“It just goes back to the public being able to enjoy the night sky and to be able to offer public education,” he said.
The Nanaimo group would handle the MOU with the astronomical society and enter a partnership with the town.
Coun. Rob Hutchins said the area around the amphitheatre is another alternative and something could be done about the lighting.
“Those lights weren’t there 15 years ago so for an opportunity to even do this for part of a year, or some time, I think it’s worthy of looking at,” he said.
Council voted to forward the debate on the possible creation of an urban star park to a future municipal services meeting.