Richmond Astronomical Society

Governor’s Visit to Staunton River State Park

Apr 21st, 2017 | By | Category: Blog

Many thanks to the RAS astronomers who helped support Governor Terry McAuliffe’s visit to Staunton River State Park. Ray Moody, John Raymond, Pernel Johnson, Jim Langley and I were there. Tyler and Angie Hutchison and Kathryn Raymond were there in spirit – things came up at the last minute that prevented them from joining us.  Below is a link to a short video of the event highlights:

The Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society (CHAOS) and Raleigh Astronomy Club led the astronomy programs for the event and RAS was happy to be there to help. As many of you probably know, Jayme Hanzak, president of CHAOS, and Adam Layman, Staunton River State Park manager, are responsible for initiating the astronomy and dark sky preservation endeavor at Staunton River. Their efforts have blossomed into a much broader recognition by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and leaders at various levels of state and local government of the value of astronomy programs and the value of preserving dark skies.

It was extremely rewarding to see the amount of support in state government for astronomy. Governor McAuliffe, his family, Molly Ward – Secretary of Natural Resources, Clyde Cristman – Director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Craig Seaver – Director of Virginia State Parks, Tim Vest – District Manager, Adam Layman – Staunton River park manager, Stephanie Allen – Staunton River Office Manager along with nearly all of the park managers from across the state and lots of other folks that work for DCR and at Staunton River State Park whose names I don’t recall were all there in support. The Governor dedicated the field next to the visitor center at Staunton River as a dark sky observation area and was recognized by the DCR for his support of Virginia state parks. The park managers were recognized for their ongoing efforts in making the Virginia Park system one of the best systems in the US. Frankly, it might even be the single best state park system in the US – really!

On Sunday night, we had an excellent dinner (I think Craig Seaver was the chef), followed by dedication of the Staunton River observation area and then an observation session with the Governor, his family and staff. Fortunately, the clouds parted and we were able to view astronomical objects visible this time of year and the Governor even made a return trip to the field at 3:00 AM in the morning to see Saturn near its high point in the sky – impressive dedication.

On Monday we had another fine dinner of barbecue and appropriate side dishes followed by the recognition of Governor McAuliffe as being the first Governor to visit all of the Virginia State Parks during his administration. The Governor also issued a proclamation recognizing the contributions of all of the park managers and personally provided each manager with a copy of the proclamation and his congratulations. We had another observation session scheduled for Monday night, but clouds and rain prevented any observing.

It was a great event – thanks again to everyone who helped make it happen. The Staunton River State Park staff pulled off another fantastic gathering. It still amazes me how hard-working and dedicated they are – they have really taken ownership of the development of astronomy programs and dark sky preservation at the park and their efforts are paying dividends in many ways.

Here are a few highlight images.

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