Dark Skies - Why You Should Care

 Photo by Olivia Treitmann

Photo by Olivia Treitmann

I remember vividly from my childhood the walk to our barn at night to feed our horses. As an eight-year-old who had recently moved from well-lit California, I was at first frightened by this long dark walk. As I became more comfortable at our home in Colorado I enjoyed looking up to see the Big Dipper. We were privileged to live in a home secluded from town with no neighbors nearby. With maturity came the realization that these dark skies were also a privilege.

Recently, there has been much discussion of lighting rules and regulations in Genesee. Many know that Genesee promotes dark skies and we encourage all residents to participate, but what are our actual regulations? Currently, Genesee’s lighting restrictions require the light source (bulb) not be visible and motion detectors have a timer. The ARC Standards (Section 2.3.11) require the lighting to be subdued low wattage lamps that have no light escaping upwards. Please see the ARC Standards and the Supplemental Declaration (Section 2.a.11) for more information.

Living in Genesee is very different from living in a metro area or any other planned community. Genesee boasts unspoiled views, wildlife at your front door and fantastic recreational opportunities. When leaving Genesee to get on I-70 at night, I am immediately flooded by street lights and home lights. When I get home the stars are hidden by the city’s and suburb’s light pollution.

Genesee is still blessed with reduced light pollution compared to Denver; however, as homes change hands and as people update or remodel their homes we may be losing sight of why the Dark Skies initiative is so important. The developers of Genesee envisioned that everyone would be able to look up and see the Milky Way or enjoy the quiet darkness of our nights. Our beautiful days should translate to peaceful evenings.

Galen Knickel emphasized this in his book The Genesee History, “We always knew that there was no perfect place for everybody. Some like to collect old car bodies in their yards. Some like horses, pets that run free. Noise and night lights don’t bother others. Acreage that overlooks someone else’s uncontrolled acreage isn’t a real problem until development happens on that someone’s land. There are plenty of places in the hills for people with high levels of tolerance and low aesthetic values. But then, as now, where is another place like Genesee?”

The idea was that Genesee would exist in harmony with our natural surroundings. Now Genesee is threatened by the loss of our dark skies. The map below shows the lights at night in our area. Genesee is on the verge of becoming a yellow spot on the map with increased lighting.

 
 

Why Dark Skies are So Important
Light pollution has real effects on wildlife and ecosystems. It has been discovered that artificial light at night has “negative and deadly effects on many creatures including amphibians, birds, mammals, insects and plants.”   

Many people use excessive or bright lights as they believe they are a good deterrent to crime and improve safety. Numerous studies show that there is no correlation that increased lighting reduces crime.

 
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In the first photo, glare lighting is being used. In the second photo, the light has been shielded (note that this is the SAME picture). Can you see the person in the first photo? Outdoor lighting can effectively provide light to the areas you need lit but without the additional glare if care is taken to select bulbs, fixtures and placement of the lights.

With technology advancing, there are quite a few dark sky light fixtures to choose from. These fixtures minimize glare while reducing light trespass and sky glow. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) advises that outdoor lighting should meet the
following guidelines:

  • Only be on when needed
  • Only light the area that needs it
  • Be no brighter than necessary
  • Minimize blue light emissions
  • Be fully shielded (pointing downward)

While any lighting change must be approved by the ARC, we encourage you to reference the thorough list that the IDA has compiled. This list of dark sky approved lighting can be found at here.

What You Can Do Now
Look at your outdoor lighting with a critical eye. Stand in the street after dark and then walk down your driveway and around your house. Is your light trespassing on your neighbors? Are all your lights pointing down?

  • Choose fully shielded fixtures that emit no light upward
  • If your lights don’t need to be on all the time look for adaptive controls such as dimmers, timers or motion sensors
  • Remember color temperature when buying new bulbs. Check the Kelvin (K) scale on the packaging. For outdoor lighting use bulbs that are 3,000 K or less; they are considered a “warmer” and more natural light. Don’t use Daylight bulbs outdoors – they are 10,000 K.

I encourage you to come to the event on June 20 and learn more. We need community participation to ensure the future of our dark skies!

Genesee is truly a unique and beautiful place to live. Do your part to make sure our nights are just as beautiful as our days. If you need any guidance or assistance making your lighting compliant please contact the office for more information.

Suzy Barr, Community Manager

Genesee Foundation