Johnson City Record Courier
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Better Lights for Starry Nights
Thursday, November 8, 2012 • Posted November 8, 2012

The public is invited to Better Lights for Starry Nights, a Hill Country Alliance dark sky program at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area on November 15. Bill Wren of the McDonald Observatory will share his expertise on the value of protecting starry skies and simple strategies to do so. Bill is described as the ambassador of dark skies across the Lone Star State. His message is that light source isn’t the critical issue—what matters is where the light goes when it leaves the fixture. Well-designed, or shielded fixtures that efficiently shine light downward save money, energy and improve visibility. He will demonstrate what we can do to “fix” wasteful outdoor lights at our homes, ranches, neighborhoods and communities. Sports fields, commercial buildings, and schools can also be safely and effectively lit in ways that reduce light trespass and increase visibility. The National Park Service, which harbors some of the last remaining dark night skies in the US, estimates that two-thirds of Americans can’t see the Milky Way from their backyards and makes a dire prediction: unless the current rate of light pollution is slowed, no dark skies will remain in the continental US by 2025. The dark sky program at Enchanted Rock highlights TPWD’s initiative to preserve night skies in Texas parks. TPWD is committed to setting up a new statewide program that interprets and celebrates night skies in state parks with regular evening programs. This will involve establishing new “partnerships” with local astronomy groups as well as a commitment to train park staff to lead night sky programs. According to TPWD Parks Director, Brent Leisure, “Preserving night skies is an important component of our overall conservation goal in state parks. Reducing light pollution in parks and educating visitors about the loss of dark skies is an important initiative. As with most things, resources are required to adapt antiquated lighting fixtures and deliver programs to enhance public awareness. We are fortunate to have the support of advocacy groups that share this concern.” The Friends of Enchanted Rock proudly support the lighting retrofit in Enchanted Rock State Natural Area and encourages all Texas residents who take delight in a dark, star - filled Texas sky to support TPWD’s night sky preservation efforts. TPWD is not the only organization working for a dark Texas night. Program sponsor, Hill Country Alliance recently secured $10,000 in grant funding to help retrofit lighting in Junction and Kimble County. Several Hill Country towns, eager for tourism, have also introduced lighting ordinances. In December, Dripping Springs approved new rules — good ones, Wren said — that required many new installations to have fixtures that prevent light from leaking to other properties or into the night sky. Marble Falls and Blanco have also passed ordinances, according to Steven Bosbach, a representative of the Austin Astronomical Society. He said Austin is also working to change streetlight fixtures. The program will be held under the group pavilion and star gazing with the San Antonio Sidewalk Astronomers will begin afterwards. This program is free and open to the public. Kids are welcome. The group pavilion is open air and warm clothes, blankets and thermoses are suggested. Rain location is Gillespie County AgriLife Extension Office, 95 Frederick Rd just off Hwy 16 North in Fredericksburg. The Better Lights for Starry Nights Program at Enchanted Rock is sponsored by Hill Country Alliance, Friends of Enchanted Rock, Hill Country Land Trust, TPWD, San Antonio League of Sidewalk Astronomers and Fredericksburg Ace Hardware.

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