How to become a Dark-Sky Community!

Wouldn’t it be nice to preserve the “Dark Sky” in your community?

There is an international organization that supports a communities goal of preserving the night sky.  Too often both rural and urban communities allow big box stores, parking lots, street lights and all other forms of lights to be unchecked.  These lights pollute our neighorhoods and towns just like a cloud of smog!  Well maybe not smog…but you get the idea.  It’s Light Pollution!

The International Dark-Sky Association has a mission goal that I’ll share with you.

International Dark Sky Communities

~ a town, city, municipality, or other legally organized community that has shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of quality lighting codes, dark sky education, and citizen support of dark skies.

The International Dark-Sky Community organization has downloadable guidelines and ordinance templates for you to use.  To be considered “Official”, there is also an application you need to fill out and submit!

Of course you can’t expect to live in a large city that already glows to the heavens and be a Dark Sky community very easily.  But you might live in an outlying suburb that has yet become fully developed and through new ordinances and participation with developers be able to yet keep light pollution to a minimum.

I would think that a Dark-Sky City concept would apply to middle sized cities that have a preponderance of relatively clear skies and forward thinking citizens.

Right now Arizona has one official Dark Sky Community

The Worlds First Dark Sky City

The Worlds First Dark Sky City

Flagstaff, Arizona.  Not only is Flag (What the locals call it) an International Dark Sky City, it was the worlds first!  Anyone who has ever lived in Northern Arizona knows what it’s like to see all the constellations, planets and the Milky Way.

How many of you have never seen the Milky Way?

How many of you have never seen the Milky Way?

I live in Payson Arizona.  Payson is about 80 miles South Southeast of Flagstaff and 80 miles Northeast of Phoenix.  We are just below the 7,000 foot high Mogollon Rim.  You can go up on the Rim during a meteor shower and get some really good shows!  But in Payson itself we have a Walmart, Bashas, and a Safeway Shopping Center glowing to the heavens.  There are fast food stores along the main highways and a few neighborhoods with street lights but overall not too many sources of light pollution.  With some public support and forward looking town ordinances, we might be able to one day become an International Dark Sky City too!

To the South of Payson lies the Mazatzal Mountains,  these mountains are the only thing that shields us from the full glow of Phoenix Arizona.  On a night with no moon, there is a light glow behind these mountains that looks like the sun is about to rise!  It makes you remember that there are 5 million people living there.

The Mazatzals Block Some of the Light Pollution from Phoenix

The Mazatzals Block Some of the Light Pollution from Phoenix

Wikipedia Defines the Dark-Sky Movement

The dark-sky movement is a campaign to reduce light pollution. The advantages of reducing light pollution include an increased number of stars visible at night, reducing the effects of unnatural lighting on the environment, and cutting down on energy usage. Earth Hour and National Dark-Sky Week are two examples of such efforts.

Sedona currently has an application in to become a Dark-Sky Community!

On September 9th 2013, Sedonas City Council passed a resolution 5 to 2 to Keep Sedona Beautiful (KSB) and apply to the International Dark-Sky Association for formal status!  Sedona noted that Flagstaff has had such success with their initiative that they would like to follow in their footsteps.  Sedona would make only the 4th Dark Sky Community in the United States!

Sedona is applying to be a Dark Sky Community

Sedona is applying to be a Dark Sky Community

Why should we care about light pollution?

Lights are everywhere and the glows from cities are overlapping.  Soon you won’t be able to escape from lights in the sky even without a moon!

Lights Overlap from City to City

Lights Overlap from City to City

It’s pretty simple why we should care, light pollution is a huge waste of our resources.  Yes, lights provide protection from the evil that lurks in the night however how many all night street lights do we need?  How many all night parking lot light displays should there be?  How much is enough?

Starry Night Lights estimates that Americans spend 5 to 10 Billion dollars is wasted annually on energy to keep lights going that may not be necessary!  Read their blog to give you an idea of the different ways light can pollute.

If you want to keep seeing the stars, talk to your City Council about starting a Dark Sky City!


About rsingram

Environmental Specialist, Disaster Reservist, Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control, Para-Archeologist
This entry was posted in Environment, Environmental Policies, Northern Arizona, Town of Payson and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How to become a Dark-Sky Community!

  1. GeorgeS says:

    I think it is a small possibility but a finite one that you could get this thru in Payson….but it is possible. Someone would have to come up with a cost estimate to get lighting to comply. I’d be for it but I am not a Payson resident (Pine in the summer and Tonto Basin in the winter).

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