Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area, renowned for its location in the Sandhills that provides spectacular astronomical views, has been certified as an International Dark Sky Park.
Merritt has hosted the annual Nebraska Star Party every summer for 29 years, when professional and amateur astronomers converge to take advantage of a sky free of light pollution.
Merritt is the first Nebraska site certified by the International Dark Sky Association. The IDA is the recognized authority on light pollution and is the leading organization in the fight against light pollution worldwide.
“This is an exciting first for our state,” said Nebraska Tourism Executive Director John Ricks. “Dark Sky Park will draw people to experience the wonder and splendor of our night skies, adding another great and unique experience to visiting Nebraska.”
Nebraska Parks and Game Commission Director Tim McCoy added, “We are delighted and honored that Merritt Reservoir is receiving this prestigious distinction. It is another great reason to visit this well-known park.”
IDA’s International Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark places through responsible lighting policies and public education. The program has five types of designations: International Dark Sky Communities, International Dark Sky Parks, International Dark Sky Reserves, International Dark Sky Sanctuaries, and Urban Night Sky Sites.
International Dark Sky Parks are parks that are publicly or privately owned spaces protected for nature conservation that implement good exterior lighting and provide dark sky programs for visitors.
Merritt, a 9,000-acre park southwest of Valentine in Cherry County, is already known for its excellent fishing, boating and camping opportunities.
Nebraska Tourism and Nebraska Game and Parks partnered to earn the international designation.
Learn more about the Merritt Reservoir SRA at OutdoorNebraska.gov/MerrittReservoir. A park entry permit is required for each vehicle entering the park.
For more information on the IDA, visit DarkSky.org. For more information on Nebraska tourism, visit VisitNebraska.com.