Another one is about to bite the dust! Well, the dark skies dust, that is. We’re talking about Kern Valley, where they’ve recently been considering a Dark Skies Ordinance (DSO) as part of their in-development Kern River Valley Specific Plan. Although it appears local residents aren’t yet convinced of the benefits of this DSO, we’re hoping they will be, since they’ve got one of the few clear skies in America.
Apparently many in the area flock to the Kern Valley to admire the night view, free for the most part from light pollution that causes glare, light trespass, and clutter, making it impossible to see constellations like the Milky Way. It’s a valuable tourism attraction, so certainly worth protecting.
So why are residents reticent to accept this new bylaw? Perhaps it’s because of the perception that retrofitting existing lights would cost too much, or that new Dark Sky Compliant light fixtures would be pricier than other options.
Fortunately, Dark Sky lighting isn’t generally more expensive, and retrofits can be relatively inexpensive as well. Turning a regular street lamp, for instance, into a total cut-off fixture requires the simple addition of a light shield, which is usually a cylindrical frame that keeps light from shining up and to the sides where it’s not required.
Might it also be that residents are concerned for their safety, worried that a dark sky ordinance would require inferior lighting that would make them vulnerable to crime? Thankfully, this myth has also been dispelled. It’s a known fact that better quality, highly-focused light provides better security than flooding an area with uneven illumination that can contribute to shadows and places for criminals to hide. Dark Sky lighting ensures specifically-directed light that’s even and consistent.
Whatever the reason, hopefully the Kern Valley leaders will be able to convince local residents of the benefits of a Dark Skies Ordinance. Lighting that’s Dark Sky Compliant is more efficient, better for wildlife, and of course, will preserve their community’s beautiful night skies, too.