In 2014, UNESCO designated the Yarmouth and Acadian Shores region as a Starlight Tourism Destination and a Starlight Reserve – the first designation of this kind of be awarded in Eastern Canada. Since then, astronomy tourism is a sector that the Yarmouth and Acadian Shores Tourism Association has pursued.
That certification, however, requires regular renewal and proof that residents and businesses are dedicated to maintaining and improving dark sky conditions.
Tim Doucette, president of La Société Touristique Bon Temps d'Argyle and owner of Deep Sky Eye Observatory in Quinan, has been working hard to keep that certification.
In the past year he has made presentations to the municipalities of Argyle and Yarmouth and the Town of Yarmouth about light pollution and its effect on astrotourism. He is informing other municipal units in the region as well on how they can reduce light pollution.
He says he’s been pushing the importance of this.
“I’m kind of concerned about it,” he says.
He’s been taking sky metre readings and says that in his area he’s noticed they are a little bit worse. He hasn’t tested Kempt yet.
Last May, Doucette approached the owner of Tusket Ford to see if he would turn off the lights in the giant car lot at night so others could see the stars. Owner Marcel Pothier complied and the reduction in light pollution was significant.
“I’m hoping that they’ll see enough improvement on our part, trying to get bylaws presented to council, doing our best to research, educate and work with the lighting companies, to recertify us,” said Doucette.
UNESCO’s second-phase certification requires a full report with data. Doucette has been working on that report.
Former Trout Point Lodge proprietors Vaughan Perret and Charles Leary were instrumental in obtaining the 2014 regional certification, submitting numerous scientific measurements of sky quality necessary to achieve regional certification.
The lodge is designated as the World’s First Starlight Hotel and has guided star walks and solar viewing.
Deep Sky Eye Observatory is introducing sky bubble overnight lodging this summer in addition to solar system experiences in the observatory and outdoor custom-designed viewing area.
Meanwhile, recognition of opportunities associated with the Starlight Tourism Destination continues to grow. For the past few years there has been a Starlight Festival in the fall. The Wedgeport Nature Trail features a starlight platform and several tourism videos by Yarmouth and Acadian Shores Tourism Association feature the beauty of star-filled skies.