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Dark sky tour in the tribal county: Discovering a secret stargazing place in Ren-Ai

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Courtesy of Liberty Times

Hehuan Mountain is not the only place for stargazing! Hehuan Mountain, a stargazing location that has been certified as an International Dark Sky Park, drives a stargazing craze in the surrounding area. However, the excessive influx of people and vehicles has impacted the ecological environment and transportation systems of the mountain area. National Chi Nan University has been assisting Ren-Ai Township in Nantou County in the promotion of a local creation plan to bring the stargazing tourism industry to the tribal area. Recently, various villages and communities were tasked to seek fields suitable for developing into stargazing tourist attractions. To create more tribal stargazing "secret" destinations, more stargazing facilities should be added in the future, and stargazing talents should be cultivated in tribal areas.

Increase stargazing facilities and cultivate tour guiding talents

Ren-Ai Township held a consensus meeting on tribal stargazing facilities in mid-November. To help promote their local creation, NCNU Associate Professor of Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management and Secretary-General Yung-ping Tseng (曾永平) presented a planning report entitled, "A Vision of Starry Mountain Town – Advancing Towards a Dark Sky Tribal County". The plan specified the astronomical image, aboriginal culture, and ecological environment as three major elements for developing a starry mountain town. Modeling on the Maori cultural stargazing tour of the Tekapo Dark Sky Park in New Zealand, Ren-Ai township with its multi-ethnic cultures should create celestial stories belonging to Taiwan's indigenous peoples and establish a starry sky tour business with scientific knowledge, humanities, and ecology.

Combination of scientific knowledge, humanities, and ecology

The chairman of the National Intercollegiate Astronomy Club Union, Po-Sheng Ou, also emphasized that in order to develop stargazing tourism, the tribes must have stationary or mobile stargazing equipment, such as astronomical telescopes. In fact, tour guiding talents are the key. Guides must be familiar with operating astronomical telescopes and other hardware, as well as have common knowledge about astrology.  In the future, the Astronomy Club Union will provide teachers to assist the locals in cultivating tour guiding and commentary talents, transforming astronomical knowledge into easily understood and public-friendly tourism content, and maximizing the effectiveness of stargazing facilities.

Tribal communities, including Lushan, Qingliu, Wanfong, Wujie, Chunyang, and Zhongzheng, expressed a high degree of willingness to develop the stargazing industry in the meeting. The local government and NCNU suggest that the villages can inventory suitable public or private land, transportation, lodging, and human resources, for follow-up assessment of the feasibility of developing stargazing destinations.
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