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Read about how Sedona, Arizona achieved the coveted Dark Skies Community designation from the International Dark Skies Association and was, when it first received this honor, one of only 11 cities world wide. Series written by former Sedona City Manager, Tim Ernster. Also, see the page about Sedona on the International Dark Skies website.

Milky Way over Elephant Rock, Sedona Arizona

Sedona Dark Skies, Part 1: Born in Controversy and Raised in a Politically Divided Community

In the summer of 2014, after many months of hard work by the Sedona non-profit organization, Keep Sedona Beautiful, and with the assistance of the City of Sedona officials, Sedona, Arizona was awarded the coveted International Dark Sky Association designation as an International Dark Sky Community.  As a result, Sedona is currently one of only eleven dark sky communities in the world.  Surprisingly, there are two other communities in Arizona that have received this recognition: Flagstaff, and the Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation.

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Andante and SR89A Intersection, Sedona Arizona

Sedona Dark Skies, Part 2: Three Elected Officials Lose Their Jobs

From August 2008 until October 2009, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) conducted a study of alternatives for continuous roadway lighting along Highway 89A in West Sedona. Before all was said and done, ADOT identified sixty-eight different alternatives for the City of Sedona to consider. The alternatives included variations such as pole heights, arm lengths, fixture types, lamp wattage, pole spacing, total number of poles, construction costs and annual maintenance costs. All of the alternatives studied by ADOT included dark sky compliant, fully shielded fixtures that supposedly would assure that the lighting would be directed downward and not escape into the night sky.

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Dark sky compliant lighting illuminates State Route 89A, Sedona Arizona

Sedona Dark Skies, Part 3: Sedona City Council Battles Community for Ownership of Highway 89A

In March 2010, four new Sedona City Council members and the incumbent mayor were swept into office by what can be accurately described as a landslide. The outcome of the election was driven by dissatisfaction in the community regarding the responsiveness of the previous City Council to the community’s wishes, and the Council’s position on the controversial issue of roadway lighting on Highway 89A. All four of the new Council members as well as the incumbent mayor had signed the “Principles of Public Service,” a document that committed the new Council members to follow the "will of the people."

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Early morning over Sedona Scenic Byway.

Sedona Dark Skies, Part 4: Dark Skies Becomes a Victim of Controversy as Sedona Citizens Reverse the City Council Decision

In February 2011, the Sedona City Council voted 4-3 to enter into an agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) to take ownership of Highway 89A in West Sedona in order to stop ADOT from installing roadway lighting on the highway.

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Sunset at Sedona Airport Overlook

Sedona Dark Skies, Part 5: Sedona Captures Elusive International Dark Skies Designation

In March 2012, the Executive Director of the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) notified the Sedona Dark Skies Committee that any application from Sedona requesting International Dark Sky Designation would not be seriously considered. According to IDA officials, because the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) had installed roadway lighting in West Sedona, it disqualified Sedona from consideration for the International Dark Sky Designation. Although Sedona Chamber of Commerce, City of Sedona, and ADOT officials attempted to change their minds by pointing out that the lighting design complied with IDA standards, it didn’t work. Amid disappointment and frustration, the Dark Skies Committee was disbanded.

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