It is called Colorado’s last boom town. Ten thousand people stampeded into Creede in the late 1800s in search of the silver hidden within the San Juan Mountains. The town was the epitome of the Wild West, a hangout for outlaws and conmen. But more than the shoot-outs and gamblers, it was the mines that made Creede. For nearly 100 years its prosperity was tied to the price of silver. The town’s last mine closed in 1985 and only about 300 people remain. Ghost towns and the creaky remnants of old mining camps litter the mountains. Now environmentalists and residents are looking to another sparkly resource to revive the economy: the stars.
Headwaters Alliance, a local non-profit organisation, wants to create a “dark-sky reserve” in aptly named Mineral County, which includes Creede. The campaign is not unique to southern Colorado. Dark-sky communities are cropping up around the American West. The International Dark-Sky Association (ida), based in Tucson, wants towns to curb their light pollution, which harms nocturnal wildlife and obscures the stars. The ida has certified more than 130 dark-sky places globally since 2001; 14 of them are in Colorado.