Astrotourism could be used to our community’s advantage by tapping into the untouched resource of an unpolluted night sky for astronomical, cultural, and environmental activities which would drive the revenue from all of our towns and cities in Walworth County . Walworth County is home to the world’s largest refractor telescope at the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, as well as other astronomical tools the observatory has to offer. Yet we’re not able to use those tools to their fullest potential because of the light-polluted skies over our county.
Residents of Walworth County, along with 80% of the world’s population, live under light polluted skies. Fortunately, there is an easy fix to the light pollution which affects every citizen economically, physically, and environmentally. As of 2019, the population of Walworth County was 103,868, which includes the cities of Delavan, Elkhorn, Lake Geneva and Whitewater, the villages of Bloomfield, Darien, East Troy, Fontana-on-Geneva-Lake, Genoa City, Sharon, Walworth and Williams Bay, as well as surrounding unincorporated communities .
The city of Lake Geneva already receives significant tourism revenue because of its proximity to Geneva Lake, but also because it has focused on the business of lakeside hospitality in drawing visitors from nearby Illinois and the Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison metro areas. Not all of the communities in Walworth County are near a lake. However, we all share the same sky.
Imagine how Walworth County communities under a dark sky might benefit from astronomy- based tourism. Dark skies would be a huge asset to all Walworth County communities with economic, health, and environmental benefits.
Astro-tourism is not complicated. It has been used to bring tourists to remote Himalayan villages. Locals are trained during a three-day program in the use of telescopes and identifying the local stars and constellations. Accommodations similar to our bed-and-breakfasts and Airbnbs were established as well. Walworth County has all the resources for astro-tourism with an exception.
The remote Himalyan villages have the advantage of truly dark skies undimmed by artificial illumination. Tourists from around the world travel to these rural, remote, villages in the Himalayan Mountains to witness the mesmerizing objects in the dark skies.
How do we become an astro-tourist community?
1. Educate residents and businesses about the importance reducing and finally eliminating light pollution in our night skies.
2. Cooperatively promote and advertise Walworth County astro-tourism under a dark sky environment.
Contact GLAS Education ([email protected]) or comment below if you are interested in learning more.