ST. GEORGE — The dark skies adorned with stars will still twinkle brightly over Springdale as the town is now an official International Dark Sky Community.
In an email to St. George News, Springdale Mayor Barbara Bruno said the town is dedicated to preserving the night sky and has implemented an outdoor lighting ordinance, dark sky education and resident support.
“We are proud to join other communities and Zion National Park in this designation and thank our Community Development Department for their work and persistence,” Bruno said.
DarkSky International chose Springdale after many years of effort from residents, businesses, town staff and elected officials to preserve its night sky. The cozy burg sits between the grandeur of Zion National Park’s sandstone cliffs, is home to some 600 residents and welcomes millions of visitors annually to the park.
An appreciation of its night sky dates back long before the town heard of its honor. Tom Dansie, director of community development, told St. George News that Springdale wanted to preserve the night sky because it is one of the few remaining places to get a pristine view of the stars and the Milky Way.
“That’s something that our residents really cherish, enjoy and are protective of,” Dansie said. “And it’s something that increasingly visitors appreciate and are coming specifically to see.”
To protect the night sky, the Town Council changed the land use regulation to require night sky-friendly lighting. Dansie said those ordinances require people to replace preexisting lighting that does not comply with Springdale’s new law.
“As the technology and lights have evolved, particularly with the advent of LED lighting, we’ve had to update our ordinance to accommodate those changes in lighting technology, and as our understanding of the best ways to protect the night sky has changed, we’ve made changes to our ordinances,” Dansie said.
In addition to the designation being an honor, Dansie said it helps community members understand that the dark sky is a unique resource and asset. He said it would encourage more enthusiasm and support for quality outdoor lighting that protects the night sky.
Some other reasons Springdale qualifies for the designation include its elevation, location next to Zion National Park and remoteness from large metropolitan areas.
In addition to treating stargazers, a vital part of dark skies is for the benefit of wildlife as artificial light has been shown to negatively impact the natural world. Robyn Henderek, a physical scientist and dark sky coordinator for Zion National Park, said in an email to St. George News that artificial light at night is a serious pollutant and disrupts the nighttime activities of wildlife, whether asleep or awake.
“Protecting the Dark Night Sky means protecting natural and cultural resources and habitats as well as the nighttime experience,” Henderek wrote. “This is important because 62 percent of all species are most active at nighttime.”
Artificial light affects nocturnal sensory activity for all species. While people in homes may darken a window being drowned by light by drawing shades closed, Henderek said wildlife doesn’t have that option.
Springdale is the third Dark Sky Community in Utah. Torrey and Helper were the first two dark sky communities in the state.
Adds a news release: “This certification makes Springdale the state’s twentieth International Dark Sky Place certified by DarkSky International. Springdale joins fifteen International Dark Sky Parks, one International Dark Sky Community, one International Dark Sky Sanctuary, and one Urban Night Sky Place, making Utah a leader in dark sky protection.”
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