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"Lights out! (Or at least, lights down)Astronomers want new standards to curb light pollution on the island."
"Believing it's better to shield a single candle than to curse the brightness, members of the Battle Point Astronomical Association are campaigning against light pollution.Not that they're advocating getting around by lantern-glow. What they do want is light directed at the area to be illuminated, rather than light that disperses to the neighbors and the heavens.There are an awful lot of dollars spent on an awful lot of power to produce an awful lot of lumens that people neither need nor want, said Mac Gardiner of the BPAA. The organization hosted a workshop at the Ritchie Observatory in Battle Point Park Wednesday for the mayor, city council and interested citizens. The group's objective is an ordinance regulating outdoor lighting.Light pollution is not a major problem for island astronomers at the moment, Gardiner said - clouds pose the greater impediment to seeing the stars.But with the growth of the city, the proliferation of night-time sporting events and the efforts to make the downtown area pedestrian-friendly and therefore illuminated, he believes the time to address the issue is now.Nighttime lighting can be accomplished in non-polluting fashion, Gardiner said. The key is a proper cutoff or shielding to direct light down instead of up. Also to be avoided are bulbs or glass reflectors dropping below the shielding, Gardiner said. They produce glare, which is a particular bother to older people.City council member Christine Nasser, one of three council members who attended the presentation, along with Mayor Dwight Sutton, said she has heard concerns expressed about glare.People who live on the water have complained about light bouncing off the water, she said. It's both an environmental and aesthetic issue.The type of lights the group is advocating have shielding above a bulb that sits flush with the bottom surface - sort of a box arrangement with a transparent bottom and the bulb inside. The lights in the Pavilion parking lot are an example.City Administrator Lynn Nordby believes that the shielded fixtures work well.With a drop lens, you see a pinpoint of light that can be distracting, he said. With a flat light, you see the street - what you are supposed to see.Nordby said that while the Northwest's trees tend to shield fugitive light, light-pollution ordinances are fairly common in many parts of the country.Such ordinances generally require shielded lights in new construction or remodels, and some require retrofitting of existing lights. They commonly impose some curbs on commercial lighting designed to advertise rather than illuminate, Gardiner said. Nordby said the city has tried to minimize light pollution in its own operations, with mixed success. He believes city hall lighting is mostly shielded, but acknowledges that the new lighting outside the police station is not.Nordby said the city has also discouraged street lighting outside the central core.Nordby was not certain that a separate ordinance would be necessary, saying the light standards might better be part of the building codes.Nasser said she applauds the general concept.This seems like something that can have a positive impact on the community without being invasive, she said. "