A more “Night Skies” friendly community

  • March 26, 2014
  • News

James Murr

The Junction Eagle

March 26, 2014

It started when the Kimble County Commissioners Court, followed by the City Council, passed resolutions supporting voluntary efforts to protect the Night Skies. This paralleled actions being taken in other Hill Country communities to preserve the awe-inspiring Night Skies and the enjoyment that comes with stargazing, including its attraction for visitors.

Across Texas, as well as the nation, the problem of light pollution and the “disappearing stars” is receiving increasing attention. Yes, there are people in urban environments with ever increasing light pollution who have never seen the Milky Way. The resolutions passed by the Commissioners Court and the City Council resulted in concrete action to help address this problem.

In response to the resolutions, the Hill County Alliance (HCA) obtained a grant for our community from the Coypu Foundation to help address the problem of light pollution. The HCA also leads a significant education and outreach effort to better acquaint communities with this problem and how to alleviate it. The Coypu grant totaled almost $10,000 and was used to replace 106 city street lights, the outdoor lights around the courthouse square, and some school lights.

At the school, there will be six new light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures to eliminate sky glow, reduce glare and light trespass, and enhance security. School Superintendent Renee Schulze advises that planned construction on the school campus this summer will also eliminate at least one additional old-style security light that creates a lot of light pollution. Unneeded lights are also being turned off and existing light fixtures are being redirected downward.

Kimble County Chamber of Commerce & Junction Visitor Information has also created a “Night Skies Friendly Business Recognition Program”. This program encourages voluntary efforts by businesses to use lighting fixtures that will reduce light pollution.

The Chamber program recognizes there is no substitute for voluntary actions taken by businesses and residents alike. For the community’s remaining lighting that still creates light pollution, sometimes it can be fixed easily by redirecting an outdoor light downward, using a simple light shield, or installing a timer. The cumulative result of individual efforts can have a big, positive result.

Night Skies friendly lighting is, however, about more than aesthetics and being a good neighbor. It can also result in less costly electric bills. And, increasingly, visitors are coming to enjoy stargazing in our area, as well as other nature-related activities such as hunting, fishing, bird watching, and kayaking. These visitors benefit the local economy.

More information about efforts underway in the Hill Country to protect the Night Skies can be obtained from the HCA website athttp://www.hillcountryalliance.org/HCA/NightSkies.