Big news about Belmead in Powhatan! As many of you know, we have developed a partnership over the past few years with Belmead in Powhatan, a beautiful, historic and relatively convenient dark sky location. We have held joint observing and outreach education events at Belmead near the mansion and at more light-shielded sites on the property. Unfortunately, the owners of the property, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Philadelphia, have decided to sell the entire 2,200 acre tract. The local Virginia staff at Belmead was not involved in the decision and this turn of events was very much a surprise to them. More information is presented in this article by Laura McFarland in the RTD and Powhatan Today.
This decision is enormously disappointing on many levels. RAS was in the process of expanding our partnership with Belmead by installing within the month a telescope storage facility from which scopes could be deployed for visitor and member use. We were also preparing an application to the International Dark Sky Association to secure Belmead’s designation as a dark sky reserve. Aside from our specific interest in the property as an observing and outreach education site, Belmead is an absolute treasure. It has had a lifetime as an old southern plantation from the 1840’s into the 1870’s, followed by a second lifetime as a school for African American and Native American youth from the 1890’s into the 1970’s and yet a third rejuvenation as an environmental and community center and a model of land stewardship. Most recently it has served us as a comfortable respite from urban light glow.
RAS has sent a letter to the leadership in Philadelphia registering our displeasure and concern over the lack of inclusiveness in making this decision. Hopefully there will be a positive outcome.