Ask any Kern Valley resident what makes this area special, and chances are you will get a list of qualities that almost always includes the fact that we can still see the stars; a growing rarity in our state as California develops itself into endless housing tracts and shopping centers. As the Kern County Planning Department has been developing the Kern River Valley Specific Plan (KRVSP), there has been public outcry to include a Dark Skies Ordinance (DSO) which would protect our view of the stars in perpetuity.
The ordinance, if adopted into the Specific Plan, will not prevent people from using outdoor lighting, but will require that anyone who does so take simple and inexpensive measures to be a good neighbor and reduce light pollution to preserve the beautiful night view we all enjoy. Light pollution is defined as any adverse effect of artificial light including sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter, decreased visibility at night, and energy waste. Not only is light pollution annoying to those residents who have moved to the Kern Valley in search of a view of the stars, it also affects tourism, as many people escape to our area from the city as a haven from the woes of urban existence. They come, in part, to see the stars.
One such person who came to the Kern Valley in part for its spectacular night sky is Donn Matlack, an amateur astronomer who retired to Wofford Heights from Orange County. Matlack, whose license plate reads 'DARKSKY,' has been on a personal crusade to protect our view of the stars since he first arrived. 'We have a resource that is rare. Two-thirds of all Americans, 200 million people, cannot see the Milky way from their home; thatís the unbridled light pollution that we have been given from our large metroplex areas,' said Matlack, 'Economics is supply and demand, and in our tourism economy, dark skies are a reason for visitors to come here instead of somewhere else at $5 a gallon for gas. If you can look up and see a sky that was 150 years old, the sky our grandparents saw, that makes this area special.'
The measures that would need to be implemented in any new development to preserve our dark skies are simple and effective, costing very little to protect something that means so much to so many. The simple implementation measures include the following mandates from the second draft of the KRVSP:
All exterior lighting shall be designed to point downward in a matter that will reduce light and glare pollution onto neighboring properties and roadways.
All security lighting shall be connected to a timer and/or motion detector.
Exterior lighting shall use one of the following types of light: Metal halide, high pressure sodium, fluorescent or low pressure sodium.
Exterior lighting shall be fully shielded. 'Fully shielded' denotes lighting fixtures which are shielded, focused, or constructed so that light rays do not project horizontally or vertically.
DSOs are nothing new in California. In fact, several areas have already recognized the importance of protecting the disappearing night skies and have adopted DROs, including the counties of El Dorado, Riverside, San Benito, San Bernardino, and San Diego, as well as the cities of Davis, Indian Wells, Lone Pine, Oakland, Palm Desert, San Diego, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Barbara, Truckee, and Yucca Valley.
Matlack hopes that Kern Valley adds itself to the list with the approval of a Dark Skies Ordinance in the Specific Plan. 'Thereís something about being able to see the sky that makes our own day to day personal struggles seem insignificant. When you can count the stars on one hand, we tend to believe that we are the center of the universe,' he said, 'Hereís to brighter days and darker nights in the Kern Valley.'
All exterior lighting shall be designed to point downward in a matter that will reduce light and glare pollution onto neighboring properties and roadways. And must be "full cut-off" lighting
All security lighting shall be connected to a Cleartimer and/or motion detector. And must be "full cut-off" lighting
Exterior lighting shall use one of the following types of light: Metal halide, high pressure sodium, fluorescent or low pressure sodium.NO! NO! NO! and let's not! And must be "full cut-off" lighting. Metal Halide means that the lamp uses Ionized Mercury to energize other metals and is outlawed by the EPA. These include Mercury Vapor, High Pressure Sodium and Low Pressure Sodium. Fluorescent light also use ionized mercury to energize halogens (noble gases). Burning mercury produces UV light and wastes energy.
Exterior lighting shall be fully shielded. 'Fully shielded' denotes lighting fixtures which are shielded, focused, or constructed so that light rays do not project horizontally or vertically.NO! And must be "full cut-off" lighting which does all this but stops direct light at the property line.
I originated these goals and definitions for the original San Diego County Ordinance. They seem to get twisted and mutilated.
Finally after all direct lighting is contained a limit of incident at the property line need to be set. I feel about 0.001 LUX. Security cameras will work at levels ten times lower than that. IR cameras will work with no visible illumination.
Best, Rick firstname.lastname@example.orgAdministrator, KRVR.org email@example.com
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