Beginning January 8, 2018 the Town of Fountain Hills, Arizona was awarded the rare distinction of being designated an International Dark Sky Community by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). It is one of only two International Dark Sky Communities located near a major metropolitan area. In total, only 16 communities in the world have previously earned this prestigious designation.
Long known for having one of the world’s tallest fountains at 560 feet, its backdrop of the Sonoran Desert mountains, its many great festivals and its mountain preserve, Fountain Hills has adopted a mission to preserve another of its natural assets, its dark sky.
Because of the effort of the FHDSA (Fountain Hills Dark Sky Association) and the support of the town council and town staff, the outdoor lighting and sign ordinances were updated to address new causes of light pollution.
The local astronomy club, in cooperation with the library, offers monthly star parties to introduce people to planets, constellations, and extraordinary stellar objects. FHDSA Board Member and former mayor Jay Schlum has stated, “Some residents moved here because of the dark skies and even have their own domed observatories in their back yard.”
To give more people the opportunity to enjoy the night sky, three telescopes were donated to the Fountain Hills Library by FHDSA Board Member Dr. Craig Gimbel. The telescopes can be checked out just like books and this program resulted in a national award for the library.
Fountain Hills feels privileged to be a dark sky oasis in the Valley of the Sun. Surrounded by mountains, parks, national forest, and tribal lands, this community in the far northeast corner of the Phoenix metropolitan area enjoys dark skies and the prestigious designation of International Dark Sky Community.
Active citizen involvement, supportive Town leadership, and outstanding guidance from IDA staff resulted in an updated outdoor lighting ordinance, many presentations to explain light pollution and smart lighting, and countless star parties to foster a greater appreciation of the night sky.
To celebrate becoming only the 17 Dark Sky Community in the world, gain broader support, and further educate, a Dark Sky Festival was held with speakers, art and photo contests, a huge star party, and much more. Its great success led to the scheduling of an annual Dark Sky Festival each March.