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Gantrisch Becomes First International Dark Sky Park in Switzerland

Gantrisch Becomes First International Dark Sky Park in Switzerland

BERNE, Switzerland — Gantrisch Dark Sky Zone, Berne, Switzerland, has been certified as an International Dark Sky Park by DarkSky International. It is the first International Dark Sky Park in Switzerland.

“The certification is an important milestone that will now set in motion many things for which the ground has been prepared for years,” says Nicole Dahinden, Project Manager “Nightscape” of the Gantrisch Regional Nature Park.At an altitude of between 1000 and 2200 meters above sea level, the Gantrisch Dark Sky Zone is the dark heart of the Gantrisch Nature Park. It covers 104.7 square kilometers, representing one-quarter of the entire Nature Park. The area between the mountain peaks of Gantrisch and Kaiseregg is a valuable and vulnerable natural region with a rich mosaic of fens and raised bogs, forests and wildlife reserves, and valleys almost untouched by tourism. Scattered across the foothills of the Alps are more than 100 alpine pastures where, during the summer months, cows graze and delicious cheese is made according to a 1,000-year-old tradition. This idyllic setting and former spa tourism has attracted hikers and guests for centuries

Since 2012, the protection of the night has been part of the Nature Park’s charter. All 19 park communities had to be won over. An important step was the development of the “light toolbox,” a toolbox for educational workshops with community representatives. The workshops resulted in action plans to reduce light emissions for each municipality. Public awareness and certification as an International Dark Sky Park were at the top of almost every action plan. The workshops also provided fertile ground for regional lighting guidelines. As there are only 4 public lighting installations in the entire Dark Sky Zone, their night-friendly conversion was also an important milestone. The Nature Park has had a monitoring concept since its inception, which has evolved over the years. The results have become a powerful awareness-raising tool.

“The DarkSky certificate is obviously an enrichment for Switzerland. So many people should finally learn why unnecessary light should be switched off,” says Daniel, a resident of the nature park. “Attending a star party in the Dark Sky Zone has literally opened my eyes and I wish many more people the same experience.”

With the Gantrisch Dark Sky Zone, the Nature Park is taking a pioneering role and wants to encourage the inclusion of darkness in spatial planning. Night protection zones and dark corridors are to be created, for example, in sensitive natural areas, along bodies of water or in residential areas. However, this requires the will of the public and politicians, which is stimulated by a Dark Sky Park through fascination and deep understanding.

We have plans for the future. First, we will continue to raise awareness and create a sense of ownership among the stakeholders in the Dark Sky Zone – such as hosts, pasture owners, etc. We are also looking forward to building on the opportunities offered by the certificate.

It is important to strengthen visitor information and guidance, especially with regard to night-time behavior and what each individual can do to protect the night-time environment, as well as to raise awareness of the various nocturnal species and habitats on site (woodcock, owl species, grouse, bats, dormouse, moths; moorland, bird migration route through the Gantrisch area, streams, hedges, gorges, forests, alpine huts with nesting niches). The existing educational program on the subject of night will be continued. Special attention will be paid to multipliers, who will in turn, pass on the content.

“This certification is a milestone that reflects our shared commitment to safeguarding natural darkness across the globe. It’s more than just a certification; it signifies dedication to preserving the integrity of the night sky for present and future generations. This effort demonstrates the power of community collaboration in protecting our nocturnal environment,” stated Amber Harrison, International Dark Sky Places Program Manager.

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