Around The Parks: Holiday Events And Light Pollution Concerns At Joshua Tree

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Luminaria will be set out December 19 for the annual Evening of Lights event at Aztec Ruins Nationa Monument in New Mexico. NPS photo.

Soft, flickering luminarias will cast their glow on December 19 at Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec, New Mexico, during the annual Evening of Lights.

The event celebrates New Mexico traditions by observing the winter solstice and displaying luminarias. Arrive at the monument by 4:45 p.m. to see the winter solstice alignment; stop by anytime between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to enjoy the luminarias, lanterns, cultural demonstrators, and refreshments.

Park rangers will lead visitors from the visitor center to a winter solstice marker at 4:45 p.m. For this special off-trail activity you must be escorted by a ranger; please wear sturdy walking shoes. Unfortunately, guests arriving at the visitor center later than 4:45 p.m. will not get the opportunity to view the alignment.

Possible solar and even lunar markers can be found throughout the ancestral Pueblo southwest. People kept their ritual calendars using the movement of the sky. Some astronomical markers, like the winter solstice alignment at Aztec Ruins, can be viewed by many people at one time, and others are in spaces accessible only by a few people at once. Most modern Pueblo tribes have historical traditions of sunwatchers who are trained from a young age to track important times of year by the sun and stars.

After the sun sets enjoy a beautiful luminaria and lantern display, cultural demonstrators showing their works, and cookies and hot cocoa. Luminarias will line the historic visitor center and electric lanterns will illuminate the archeological site.

Concerns Of Light Pollution At Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park officials have raised concerns about a proposed solar power tower project that would be sited next to the park. Specifically, they worry the project with its two 750-foot-tall towers could intrude on the park's dark skies.

"Significant adverse impacts to the visual resources of Joshua Tree National Park and nearb wilderness areas are expected should this project be approved," Christine Lehnertz, director of the Park Service's Pacific West Region, wrote in comments on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on BrightSource Energy and Abengoa Solar's proposed Palen Solar Electric Generating System.

"With the proposed height of the PSEGS solar power towers and associated facility lighting, degradation to visual and night sky resources is expected to surpass other projects in the area," she added.

Elsewhere in her comments, the regional director noted that "[D]ata taken from Pinto Wells in the Pinto Basin of Joshua Tree NP indicates that this area is the darkest measured in the park and is representative of the darkest skies found in the Mojave Desert. Construction and operation of the PSEGS project has a high potential to degrade the natural darkness of the Pinto Basin and the eastern portions of Joshua Tree NP...."

Victorian Christmas At Delaware Water Gap NRA

A Victorian Christmas celebration and a Christmas Carol Service are on the calendar at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Both events, which are free, will be held at Millbrook Village in the Water Gap NRA.

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The Depue cabin at Delaware Water Gap NRA ready for the holidays. NPS photo.

On Saturday, December 7, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., park rangers and volunteers will present a Victorian Christmas Celebration. Village buildings will be decked out for the holidays and open for tours and demonstrations.

Visitors can watch as holiday meals are prepared over an open fire or woodstove and enjoy the many children's activities hosted in the Van Campen farmhouse, including hands-on period toys, games and crafts. Light refreshments will be available.

On Sunday, December 8 at 5 p.m., the annual Christmas Carol Service will be held in the Millbrook church. All are welcome to attend this traditional hour-long carol program. Light refreshments will be available following the service.

Millbrook Village is located on Old Mine Road in New Jersey, 12 miles north of Interstate 80 (Exit 1). Access is also available by taking NJ Route 602 (Millbrook-Blairstown Road) seven miles west from its intersection with Route 94 in Blairstown or from the north using Old Mine Road.