FVAS Dark Sky Park


    Please Note: All Abbotsford Parks are "DAY USE" only! So there is the potential that you run the risk of being locked in should you decide to stay after dark. McDonald "Dark Sky" Park only remains open when FVAS members are in attendance for an astronomical event.

    The City of Abbotsford No Smoking By-Law

    The idea of a Dark Sky Park, came about when I read a story about the Torrance Barren's in Ontario, written by Astronomer Terence Dickinson author of Night Watch Third Addition and the Editor of SkyNews Magazine available in most book stores. The story went on to describe the efforts of a Mr.Peter Goering and how he was successful in securing the 5000 acre land reserve (Torrance Barrens) approximately an hours drive North of Toronto, North of Gravenhurst near Lake Muskoka. In an effort to preserve the Night Sky, and promote Education and Astronomy.

    Some time later I mentioned this story to a friend of mine, Mrs.Janet Bakke, who has nothing to do with astronomy really! But puts up with my rantings and ravings about the subject. She asked me if I had ever heard of McDonald Park? Of course I hadn't. She went on to give me directions and I was surprised to hear where the location of the Park was. Sometime later, I took up her suggestion and headed out to the park to have a look. And I am very grateful to Ms. Bakke that I did!

    The park was approximately 10 -12 minutes out of town, situated mid-way between Abbotsford and Chilliwack cities. Tucked against Sumas Mountain, the mountain itself acting like a huge amphitheather, essentially blocking off the light of Abbotsford to the west, Chillwack to the east and Mission city to the North. Offering up an excellent east -south and western Exposure! See the map.

    I was impressed as to how well the Milkyway stood out against the black background there and on that particular evening the atmosphere was absolutely spectacular, the conditions were just right and I had a great time seeing some old friends up there in the Night Sky. It was a highly enjoyable evening. It wasn't long before many of our members were frequenting the park. And why not? Fresh clean water was available and so were full functioning washrooms and best of all minimal LIGHTS! (with the exception of two street lights down the road from the park! But Abbotsford Council and the Works department are looking into either removing the street lights or finding another option that will allow us to turn the lights off, when we are in attendance at the park! ). The Solution? Full Cut Off Optic Street Lights!

    It wasn't very long after that I did some more research regarding Light Pollution, and found plenty of information at International Dark Skys Association, I made a few more inquiries of Mr. Dickinson and with the information that he provided, I brought it to our membership, with the suggestion that we bring this idea of a Dark Sky Park to the Abbotsford City Council! The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in Vancouver also offered what ever support they could towards our endeavour, just the suggestion of the societies good name seemed weighty enough to help us and we were grateful for their suggested support.

    Victor Pollock, and myself took up the challenge and tested the waters by approaching councilman George Peary, Mr. Peary was very gracious in allowing us to ask several questions of him, about how council members would feel about such an idea? Mr. Peary offered his thoughts, ideas and suggestions and thought our idea to be a nobel one and saw it as a contributing factor towards education as well as preserving the Night Sky.

    We were very encouraged and set out to make the idea a reality! Victor Pollock wrote the proposal and set the meeting date with Abbotsford City Council for Monday the 27th of March. Victor Pollock, Dennis Deming and myself attended the meeting and made our proposal. Regarding McDonald Park, the light pollution of Abbotsford, and the preservation of the Night Sky, for the purposes of Education and Astronomy. Also allowing the FVAS to use the park on any clear night rather than being restricted to Friday nights only! It was also our hope that a buffer zone could be provided to protect the park. What turned out to be an added bonus to us. and we were totally unware of this fact, our Mayor George Ferguson was kind enough to point out to us that the park was situated on an Provincial Agricultural Land Reserve and Flood Plain. And he felt that future development in that area was highly unlikely.

    On April 7th 2000 the park was officially designated as a Dark Sky Park! Actually the park is billed in two ways, a day light park for general public use, and run by the FVAS at night. For School groups, boy's groups, girls groups and the general public (by invitation). Otherwise the park remains closed at night. For all of the obvious security reasons.

    But it is our hope that the park will be utilized greatly, and will bring Astronomy to the classrooms of our school district and offer views of the Night Sky for many many years to come! We are all very pleased with the outcome, and to our knowledge McDonald Park is the second such site of its kind in Canada, the First being that of the hard work and dedication of Peter Georing and his team with regards to the Torrance Barrens in Ontario! Thankyou Peter for the work you have done, and the inspiration you gave us to follow.

    Location of the Park!? Highway #1 and the #3 road exit, (Exit 104 North) take the exit off the highway and then cross back over the highway towards Sumas Mountain, keep going and you will run right into the Park.

    Here are stories that appeared in the local news paper just prior to the park being dedicated as a DSP.

    It's OFFICAL! McDonald Park in Abbotsford has been designated as a Dark Sky Park (DSP).

    The designation was made by Mayor George Ferguson and the Abbotsford City Council members, after reviewing the suggested proposal put forth by the Fraser Valley Astronomers delegation, Victor Pollock (President) and Paul Greenhalgh (Director). The park is located at exit 104 and highway 1, head north over the highway on number 3 road to the park at roads end.

    The DSP is to be used for the purposes of Education and Astronomy by the FVAS! The Park will remain a daylight park for general public use and closed at night as per normal hours! It is only to be opened at night when the astronomers are in attendance providing a viewing session for special interest groups and school groups, after which the gates will be closed once all invited guests are in attendance. Public viewing sessions will be announced, upon approval by the Recreation and Parks Department.

    The FVAS are very thankful to Council members for this opportunity to bring the field of Astronomy to our local schools, boy's groups, girls groups and the general public! The FVAS have been doing this since 1987, through slide show presentations, lectures and viewing sessions throughout the Fraser Valley.

    The site itself offers vista's of the Night Sky that can no longer be seen from the main core of Abbotsford. The culprit? Light Pollution! The "DSP" McDonald Park, is in actuality a spin off, of the Dark Sky Preserve in Ontario, the Torrance Barrens a 5000 acre Dark Sky Zone! McDonald Park itself is the second such site in all of Canada!

    Abbotsford city council are also responsible for a grant that was approved some years ago to develop the 20 inch telescope, which the society uses during these viewing sessions. The mirror alone took 4 years to develop, all done by hand. A $700 dollar chunk of glass that is now priceless and of high quality! The 20" telescope today! Is under a reconstruction process you can see it HERE!

    Watch the papers for a general public viewing session, the public is invited to see the night sky and enjoy an evening under the stars.

    Recently a memorial observation pad was constructed in the DSP to pay homage to Dennis Deming, a long time FVAS member and friend. We would like to thank the following organizations for their support, donations and efforts:
    The city of Abbotsford
    Canadian North Log Homes
    Rempel Bros. Concrete


    A note from the Editor's Desk in the same paper reads as follows. It should be noted here though, that the Mayor wasn't really concerned about Farmer's lighting, he was just making an analogy that farmers today enjoy having lights in the barns, and did go on to say that under proper conditions some of the farm lights could be shielded to prevent sky glow but don't expect farmers to turn them off! He also went onto say, that times are changing, and people are becoming concerned about losing the Night Sky to sky glow. And with that the designation of McDonald park is something that we should have a serious look at and research further and make our recommendations in the very near future. That mode of consideration took approximately 10 days, and the park was designated a "Dark Sky Park" as of April 6th of this year (2000)!

    And we Thank Abbotsford City Council Greatly for their insight in Preserving the Night Sky for their citizens!

    PARK in the dark a window to the stars

    May 13th news article as it appeared in the Abbotsford News! Story too large to scan in! So here is a repeat of the printed original

    Macleans Magazine May 22nd article

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