Merritt Reservoir designated as 200th International Dark Sky Place

Merritt Reservoir spans 729 acres and is known for its excellent fishing, boating and camping opportunities.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN)- Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area in Cherry County, Nebraska has been officially designated as the 200th certified International Dark Sky Place.

According to a Nebraska Tourism press release, this achievement is a major step in conserving Nebraska’s nightscape and an opportunity to highlight it as an astro-tourism destination.

Adventure Travel Specialist, Jenna Bartja, says Merritt Reservoir is the first International Dark Sky Place to be recognized in the state.

“This recreational area provides a wonderful opportunity to recognize the importance of conserving natural darkness for the local ecosystem, encourages its neighbors to follow its example with quality outdoor lighting, while also providing a place to connect visitors with a quality dark sky experience where the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye – the core elements of what makes an esteemed International Dark Sky Park,” Ashley Wilson program director of conservation said.

The International Dark Sky program has been in place for over 20 years.  The program sets strict guidelines to endure that each park takes action to improve the quality of the nightscape environment.

In order to achieve certification, Nebraska Game and Parks implemented a light management plan to fix and maintain outdoor lighting.

According to the program’s website, Merritt Reservoir must “maintain and extend protection to the night sky through quality outdoor lighting, effective policies, and ongoing stewardship practices that improve the caliber of the nightscape environment.”

As part of their certification, the parks department will offer educational programs focused on nocturnal wildlife, unique nighttime phenomena, and the myriad threats of light pollution.

The park will also continue to host the annual Nebraska Star Party as they have for the past 29 years.

In the coming years, the park plans to develop self-guided tours and install educational signs throughout the park.

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