JOHN CHAPPELL: Carthage Wants to Get in on Star Party
If Robbins hitches its wagon to the stars, other towns want in on the ride.
At last week's Carthage Town Board meeting, Commissioner Sherwood Lapping applauded the return of MASP -- the Mid-Atlantic Star Party -- and the success of Robbins Mayor Mickey Brown in finding a site for MASP 2006.
Carthage Mayor (and Moore County Commissioner-elect) Larry Caddell agreed. The two towns have much to gain from a partnership with MASP and its organizer John Dilday to protect the present clear view of night skies in the upper corner of the county from light pollution.
Brown's idea of making the whole area a Dark Park, where neighbors would cooperate in spreading the use of sky-friendly lighting, appeals to both of the Carthaginians.
Caddell spent many a night under those dark skies all speckled with stars as a youth, eventually earning the two awards of which he is most proud. The badges hang in special frames in his office at Southern Software where he is CEO.
One is Scouting's religious badge, For God and Country. The other is the one they pinned to his uniform when he became an Eagle Scout -- the only private medal that may be worn on U.S. Military uniforms.
This year, at MASP, samples of safer, more efficient backyard security lights and other improved devices are expected to be shown to visitors.
"With it so much closer to Robbins, we hope a lot more people will go out to see MASP," Brown said at the September session of Robbins commissioners.
Occoneechee Scout Reservation lies between the two towns. It has been the host for the previous decade of stargazer gatherings.
This year, construction forced normal Scouting activities over to the isolated section MASP has been using. That area, known as Camp Reeves, would not be available during the October new moon when MASP takes place.
A local motorcycle club, Brothers of the Horizon made available their campground on Lakey Siding Road off The Old Plank Road.
Scouts would like the star party to return to Camp Reeves.
"I spoke to the council executive about it," Lapping said Thursday, at a Carthage Rotary Club outing. "The council would be happy to have MASP there on a permanent basis."
Johnny Glover, program support director for the Occoneechee Council, agrees. He runs all council camp programs from their Raleigh office.
"We welcome all nonprofit groups who want to use our camps," Glover said. "At Occoneechee Scout Reservation, we are in the midst of a major renovation and fundraising effort. We are building a new dining hall. We did have to move our fall Scout activities to Camp Reeves, but would be happy to have MASP back."
Outdoor shower units MASP has used are stored at the reservation, but MASP is more than welcome to collect whatever they need for use this year at the alternate site, Glover said.
These are portable showers. They have roof lines extending about a foot beyond the base, with sides of pressure-treated plywood.
"The water heaters and RV water pipes are stored inside them," Dilday said. "Speaker tent sides and other accessories stored inside the storage boxes are not needed this year."
That is because Brothers of the Horizon have a large indoor room that can be used for the many lectures and demonstrations MASP 2006 will feature.
This astronomy gathering is planned years in advance, and many visiting astronomers plan their vacations around attending it, Dilday says. A permanent site, whether at the Scout camp for now, or in an astronomical village in the future, is essential.
That idea is expanding the annual Moore County outing to a year-round dark sky identity for the Robbins/Carthage area, leading to a kind of real estate development known as an "astronomical village" -- a place where people build homes with the assurance that clear, dark skies above them will be protected.
At the Carthage Board meeting, Lapping wanted to know if Dilday still had the planetarium used to train NASA Mercury program astronauts in celestial navigation.
Dilday does, and e-mailed Brown -- looking forward himself to a day when he himself might even call a Moore County astronomical village home.
"Regarding the planetarium, there are several parts," Dilday said. "I did give the star and planet projector to a museum that put it under a much larger dome. I have other star projectors, as collecting them is a bit of a hobby for me. I still have the 20' diameter dome and seats. I would build a home, observatory and planetarium in the astronomical village."
Alternately, Dilday would consider a better site and use for his planetarium components.
Lapping is already on the lookout for some place to site that planetarium, and wants to work with Brown, Dilday, the Scout council and others.
Some day, if he has his dream, visitors coming from Raleigh to Carthage, or from Greensboro to Robbins, might be greeted by unusual signs.
"Welcome," they would say. "You are now entering the Dark Park."
John Chappell can be reached at 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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