CHARLESTOWN — Along with the scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean, alluring beaches, and thick forests, one of the best and most breathtaking pieces of Charlestown resides right above our heads.
The town’s gorgeous dark skies have become more than a reason to stop by the Frosty Drew Nature Center & Observatory. According to Observatory Director Francine Jackson, the skies have actually drawn people to visit and even reside in Charlestown.
As such, Jackson explained that the dark sky is not only important for its educational and aesthetic values but also for its economic value. “We actually act as a magnet for people out of state,” she said. “People come to the park just to see the skies.”
Even though it was unfortunately cloudy the previous weekend, Jackson said three groups of people came out — two from Connecticut and one from New York — because they saw the Frosty Drew website. Also, she said that the folks residing in town for the summer often come to Charlestown specifically for its dark skies, something “they don’t have where they [live].”
Jackson said she believes it to be of the utmost importance to protect and maintain the town’s dark skies, particularly those closest to the observatory, which sits in Ninigret Park.
Jackson made her case at the Town Council’s June 15 meeting, where she presented findings on how the state is increasingly having issues with light leaking everywhere. She did note, however, that Charlestown is “very lucky” because “we’re able to have as dark a sky as possible.”
It’s with that in mind that Frosty Drew often advertises that the town has “the darkest skies on the East Coast,” she said. “Let us keep the need for dark skies not only for the education but for the history of the sky itself.”
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Jackson said that the observatory staff often tells its students that if it wasn’t for our dark skies, we wouldn’t be here. “So we try to keep them in people’s minds,” she added.
She went on to say that the skies are threatened because of development in the surrounding communities, such as Westerly.