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A weekend of stargazing events are planned to open the 2010 Galloway Forest Astrofest, which will celebrate the first anniversary of the Park being awarded the prestigious Dark Sky Park status.
A number of talks, presentations, observation events and planetarium shows are being hosted from this weekend (Friday 12th) until March, to mark a year of world wide interest in the project.
The Dark Sky Park proposal was the brainchild of Forestry Commission Scotland’s recreation and tourism manager for the Galloway, Keith Muir.
“It has been a whirlwind ride since the announcement last year and I’ve been inundated with requests for information, to give talks and to give media interviews.
“The interest is just what we wanted. We are keen to ensure that Galloway Forest Park continues to be a major draw for tourists to the south west of Scotland.
“I have heard so many positive comments from local accommodation providers who have seen an increase in bed nights purely as a result of star gazing. In fact, we wanted to help local businesses make the most of this project so we ran a series of workshops for them.”
The initiative has also made an impact on Forestry Commission Scotland’s own policies as all its main lighting at buildings and visitor centres around the region have been changed to reduce light pollution.
Local organisations and local communities are also getting right behind the project. The lights at Girvan’s promenade have been changed as a direct result of Dark Sky Park status.
Glentrool’s residents are also working on plans to turn a former school into a Dark Sky area and are pushing to have their street lights altered to tie in with the project.
The interest from visitors and the local community has been immense too as around 700 people turned up to see the Perseids meteor shower last August.
With all this added interest, the Commission has taken on a new Dark Sky Park development officer to work up a number of events during the coming year, with the first kicking off this coming week.
On Friday 12th at 7pm and 9pm there is a Dark Sky Scotland planetarium show to be held at the Douglas Ewart High School.
The events on Saturday 13th start at 1pm at the Galloway Arms Hotel with a number of planetarium shows, comet making shows and various talks on Scottish astronomy throughout the day. At 9pm there will also be a stargazing session at the Wigtonshire Astronomical Society’s observatory in Glenamour.
On Sunday 14th there will be a number of planetariums shows starting at 1pm in the Creebridge House Hotel. At 7pm there will be a talk by the co-ordinator of the UK Dark Skies campaign followed by another outdoor session at the observatory.
For more details of the events log on to www.forestry.gov.uk/darkskygalloway.
Notes to news editors
1. Forestry Commission Scotland serves as the Scottish Government’s forestry directorate www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland
2. Galloway Forest Park was awarded Dark Sky Park status by the International Dark Sky Association on 15 November 2009.
3. Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office 0131 314 6508.