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Communities in north-central Pennsylvania are taking action to limit outdoor artificial lighting that is encroaching on the area’s vital resource: darkness.
satellite data The Pennsylvania wilderness, consisting of millions of acres of mountains and woodlands, features some of the best views of the night sky, slowly polluting with light. To protect that darkness and the commerce it brings, environmental groups and residents in the region are promoting municipal ordinances regulating light and educating local businesses about preserving darkness.
They want to slow down the trend so far Influence the eastern landscape of the Mississippi River decades. Pennsylvania, along with Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, is one of the few states with a clear night sky, and resources are declining worldwide.
The Pennsylvania wilderness has long resisted, but over the past decade, light pollution has slowly spread across the region, creeping back after a brief dip during the pandemic.
Returning to his hometown of the Emporium nearly a decade ago, photographer Brian Reid, 39, has seen first-hand the impact of pollution on the area.
Reed began photographing stars and the Milky Way core in Cameron County in 2012.
That glow made him worry about how long the darkness would last.
“Are we getting the last shot of the Milky Way seen in Pennsylvania?” he said. “It’s like taking a picture in honor of a species that is going extinct.” He now advocates for reducing light pollution and takes as many photos as possible to document the beauty of the night sky. increase. of the entire universe,” he said of the spectacular celestial views.
The Pennsylvania Outdoor Lighting Council is similarly determined to keep the skies dark. A group of volunteers are helping local governments draft local ordinances regulating artificial lighting, practices such as requiring lights to be shielded and directed downwards.
Last year, Pittsburgh passed an ordinance to use “dark sky lighting” in city parks, facilities and streetlights.
According to a news release from the Mayor’s Office in August 2021, “Lighting in the dark skies is based on technology, low color temperature, and shielding to minimize the use of outdoor lighting as necessary for comfort and safety.” It is used.”
“It’s a relatively easy fix that every municipality can work on,” said Grant Ervin, a former senior city planner in Pittsburgh. told Bloomberg“It’s one of those tools that local governments can regulate and install as a standard.”
Lighting Council volunteer Barry Johnson said the state legislature tried to pass a bill regulating state-owned outdoor lighting in 2001, but the bill was defeated by the commission.
A problem with local lighting codes, Johnson said, is lack of enforcement. He said that in places like Philadelphia, regulations are only enforced on complaints.
A successful example of dark sky conservation is Cherry Springs State Park in Potter County in Wilde, Pennsylvania. It is a certified International Dark Sky Park. The International Dark Sky Association (International Dark Sky Association) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the dark skies, known as “the extraordinary or outstanding qualities of starry nights and nocturnal environments that are protected specifically for them.” land that has Scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment. ”
Cherry Springs attracts stargazers from all over the world, according to park manager Scott Morgan. Its tourism benefits businesses in nearby towns like Coudersport. Especially on the night of the darkest new moon. More than 179,000 people visited the park last year, Morgan told Spotlight PA.
Chip Harrison, a member of the committee that advises the IDA Board, first spotted someone doing astronomical observations with a telescope in Cherry Springs in 1997. Harrison, who was the manager of the park, said he saw an opportunity to attract more visitors to the then-underused park through a stargazing program. By the time he retired a few years later, he was recognized by the local newspaper for bringing development and attraction to the park.
Harrison said the IDA certification for the park has especially boosted the park’s popularity. He also noted that local businesses have embraced Celestial’s claim to fame in the area.
Dylan Setzer renamed the Orion Inn Bar & Grill after his zodiac sign when he purchased the Coudersport restaurant in 2021. According to Potter Reader EnterprisesStraub Brewery in St. Marys has a beer called Stellar Night.
Helping keep the skies dark in Cherry Springs dark sky fundsaid Morgan. The group provides funding and education to community members and businesses on the benefits of reducing light pollution.
The gas industry in the region burns natural gas from oil and gas fields, causing massive flames and light pollution, but the Dark Sky Fund and these companies limit flares on new moon nights. An informal agreement was reached, Morgan said.
Josh Zucal, marketing director for Cameron County, believes keeping the county’s dark skies will be an opportunity for tourism.
“The inspiration came from Cherry Springs, because we have similar dark areas,” he said.
Zukal is working with Harrison to get a potential site in Cameron County officially recognized as a dark sky area by the IDA.
Zukal said Cameron County has not yet taken steps to introduce a local ordinance to maintain darkness, but plans to do so in the near future.
Ashad Hajera is Reporting to America He is a member of the Corps and writes on rural issues for the State College Regional Bureau of Spotlight PA.
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