Park City, UT is setting itself up to potentially become the newest Dark Sky Community member.
What is a Dark Sky Community? The non-profit International Dark Sky Association (IDA) was officially founded in 1988 with a mission “to preserve and protect the night time environment and our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting.”
There are less than thirty Dark Sky Community member cities around the world, however there are International Dark Sky Parks and Reserves as well. Flagstaff, AZ is considered as the original Dark Sky Community and even predates the IDA. They adopted stringent lighting regulations in the 1950s and help set the standard for Dark Sky Communities today.
Light pollution is the main culprit Dark Sky Communities aim to tackle. When outdoor lighting isn’t properly shielded or directed, it seeps into the night sky and becomes “sky glow.” This unnatural illumination has direct and indirect impacts on the surrounding communities and environment.
“Reducing light pollution saves energy, lessens the impact on human, animal and ecosystem health, as well as increasing public safety.”
– Liz Jackson, Park City Planning Department
What’s up for vote in Park City? If the new lighting ordinance is passed, residents and businesses would be required to ban flood/spotlights and install full cutoff lighting, with certain exceptions. Brightness and temperature guidelines of artificial lights would be required, and all city owned properties would need to be brought up to code as well. The city is exploring a grant program to assist residents and businesses who may incur costly upgrades to get up to code.
Currently, there is only one city in Utah recognized as a Dark Sky Community member. Torrey, UT became Utah’s first member in 2018, however Helper, UT may not be far behind as they recently passed a new lighting ordinance that could pave the way for them to join the community. Also, four of Utah’s five national parks are also members of the International Dark Sky Parks community.
Where I live in Costa Mesa, CA, we have terrible light pollution. Luckily enough, I’ve been fortunate to venture out to places with little to no light pollution. The two places that instantly come to my mind are the Inca Trail, Peru, and the Eastern Sierras, near Mammoth and Yosemite, CA. There’s something special about gazing up and seeing all the stars, constellations, and planets that make up the vast, dark, universe. It really puts things in perspective in terms of how small we are compared to everything else that’s out there in the World.
The Park City City Council is set to vote on new lighting regulations by the end of the year, and anticipates 2024 as the year for full implementation of the ordinance, assuming it passes.