Ivins residents find creative solutions to aid local Night Sky Initiative

The Horsehead Nebula as seen from Ivins, Utah, December 2016 | Photo courtesy of Ron Levandoski, Copernicus Observatory, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Residents in Ivins are coming together to find creative solutions to light pollution.

The Ivins Night Sky Initiative was founded in January with hopes to “improve, preserve, and protect the night sky over Ivins,” according to its website.

Director Mike Scott said the organization and Ivins residents are seeking to modify an outdoor lighting ordinance due to its outdated nature. The ordinance is about 12 years old.

They are looking to reduce the color temperature of outdoor lighting to soften the “harsh white light” and reduce blue light emissions, he said.

Reducing blue light will not only decrease sky glow and light pollution, but it will also benefit the safety of the community as it will reduce glare. Scott said the change will also protect residents’ health as recent studies have found that blue light contributes to a number of adverse health effects, including greater risk of heart disease, some cancers and permanent eye damage.

While the city of Ivins waits for the proposed changes to make their way through local government, residents are making their own, temporary solutions to current light pollution concerns.

The goal of the do-it-yourself solutions is to aim the light in a more effective manner while limiting the effect that “stray light” has on the night sky, Scott said. This can be accomplished by focusing the light into a downward beam and limiting blue light.

We’re not trying to reduce outdoor lighting, exactly,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is just make sure that it aims the light where we really want it to go.”

One resident used red Solo cups to aim the beam of light more downward and block any upward light from shooting into the sky. Eagle Rock, a subdivision with about 90 homes, changed the lights outside of garages to focus the light downward.

Scott said most outdoor lighting in the future is going to consist of LED bulbs, which are efficient and economically friendly, but LEDs include quite a bit of blue light. Ivins has been getting the best of both worlds by using LED lights with an amber filter.

“So you get rid of the harmful potential health risk and safety problems,” he said.

Ivins was cognizant of the night sky when drafting the ordinance a dozen years ago, Scott said, but the technology has changed and the city is growing almost as rapidly as St. George. He said Ivins is projected to double in size over the next 20 years.

With this in mind, the Ivins Dark Sky Initiative is looking to impact the present in order to start on the best foot for the future.

“We are going to grow,” Scott said. “We are going to need a lot more outdoor lighting, so let’s just make sure it’s the best kind of lighting we can possibly have.

The organization now has about 25 volunteers who work to educate people about light pollution and the harmful effects of blue light. It is working with the International Dark Sky Association and is hoping to have Ivins named as a “Dark Sky Community” within the next year.

In order for Ivins to be considered for the designation the city must meet a set of requirements, including a lighting policy that covers shielded lamp posts and blue light restrictions and the opportunity for education and community outreach.

Ivins City Council will consider the lighting design and construction plans for outdoor lighting at its meeting on June 20 at 5:30 p.m. at Ivins City Hall.

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