Rocky Mountain National Park Night Sky

Dark night skies and natural quiet are examples of the intangible resources protected by Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfortunately, the booming growth of Front Range communities makes some degradation of these resources inevitable. However, park planners are working with local communities and the Federal Aviation Administration to protect the park to the extent possible.

A research study, led by Dr. Jonathan Taylor, is examining what types of backcountry experiences park visitors most value. This information will assist park managers in planning for the continued protection of the park's intangible resources.

Night Sky

The ability to view the stars, moon, planets and other celestial objects is an important part of the visitor experience. Views of the night sky are being degraded by light pollution from park facilities and nearby urban development. Park employees at Rocky Mountain National Park are installing new exterior light fixtures that protect the night sky as new facilities are constructed, or older facilities are remodeled. The Town of Estes Park has adopted a new zoning code that requires shielded light fixtures for all new development. The park offers limited night programs in summer and winter. See the list of Ranger Led Programs for details.

Noise

The Park Onmibus Appropriations Act of 1998 banned the use of low-flying, commercial air tours over Rocky Mountain National Park. Rocky Mountain is the only park in the system to date that has this type of protection. Passage of this legislation reflects widespread community support for limiting noise from aircraft. Commercial airlines, military, and private aircraft are not covered by this policy and are allowed to fly above a specified altitude. The Federal Aviation Administration regulates air traffic over the park and has established published routes to which commercial aircraft must adhere. Military and private aircraft are not restricted to these routes.

Noise generated from commercial airliners has become a growing concern to park management. The Federal Aviation Administration has established an airline traffic route in the northern portion of Rocky Mountain National Park. However, air traffic is frequently observed deviating from this published route. Currently, a group of volunteers monitor airline presence in the skies above Rocky Mountain National Park.

In 2002, noise produced by snowmobiles along the North Supply Access Trail on the west side of the park was monitored to determine if noise levels were within an acceptable range for preserving wildlife habitat, protecting visitor/employee safety, and maintaining a quality recreational experience for all users.

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