In an effort to bring awareness to the importance of preserving night skies, the City of Fredericksburg recently adopted a proclamation to make October Hill Country Night Sky Month.
The proclamation was signed by Mayor Gary Neffendorf during the city council meeting on Monday, Sept. 21.
Cliff Kaplan, program director of Hill Country Alliance, was happy with the proclamation.
“I’m really excited. This is something we’ve been working on with communities across the Hill Country,” Kaplan said. “Fredericksburg is one of 20 communities in the Hill Country to proclaim October as Hill Country Night Sky Month.”
This is the first-ever Hill Country Night Sky Month, and Kaplan hopes there are many more to come.
Kaplan noted the importance of preserving night skies, as it can be beneficial economically.
“Only 20% of people can see the Milky Way from where they live,” Kaplan said. “People from all over enjoy seeing the night sky, so preserving it is a resource for tourism.”
He also noted preserving night skies saves money, as light pollution wastes nearly $3 billion on energy costs per year.
Robert Deming, president of the Friends of Enchanted Rock board of directors, was one of the primary contributors in helping Fredericksburg become recognized as an International Dark Sky Community.
He believes preserving a night sky can also benefit human and wildlife health.
“The blue light from LED lighting tells your brain that the sun is up and you should be awake, whereas the dimmer, orange light doesn’t really do that,” Deming said.
Kaplan reiterated, saying this could impact sleep and psychological health, as well as increase one’s risk of certain cancers.
City of Fredericksburg staff has been working to preserve night skies by amending parts of its Outdoor Lighting ordinance.
According to the ordinance, all nonconforming lights, including city streetlights present after June 1, 2019, are to be brought into compliance by May 1, 2029.
The city’s ordinance also states that all outdoor lighting should be fully shielded fixtures, the luminous elements of the fixture shouldn’t be visible from another property and the fixture should have a light temperature of 3,000 degrees Kelvin or less.
According to studies published on International Dark Sky Association’s website, darksky.org, lighting greater than this temperature can make it difficult to see clearly at night. It could also suppress melatonin production, which leads to disrupted sleep and other health risks.
Deming said he uses lights with 2,700 degrees Kelvin on his property, and it makes a “dramatic” difference.
Examples of nonconforming lights are unshielded floodlights, unshielded wall packs and unshielded wall mount fixtures, drop-lens and sag-lens fixtures with exposed bulbs or refractor lenses, or unshielded barn lights. Deming hopes city officials list up-lit steeples as noncompliant, as he believes they are much less harmful when they’re down-lit.
To learn more about the city’s efforts, go to www.fbgtx.org/974/Dark-Skies-Over-Fredericksburg-TX.
What residents can do
While the city is trying to do its part, the proclamation encourages residents to implement practices and lighting improvements to reduce light pollution as well.
According to Deming and Kaplan, a couple of tips include inspecting lighting around the home to ensure it doesn’t shine into others’ property using dark-sky friendly lighting, such as full-cutoff fixtures and fully-shielded wall mount fixtures, to ensure light is shielded and aimed where it’s needed.
Hill Country Alliance has partnered with communities around the region to create events celebrating Dark Sky Month.
A complete list of Virtual Star Parties, restaurant events and citizen scientist events are listed at www.hillcountryalliance.org/nightskymonth/eventcalendar.