Walnut Canyon Village replaces glaring lights on the porch with screened lights.
Avid hiker Andrea Michaels has long enjoyed watching the Perseids meteor showers from the shores of Laurel Lake, a duck pond on the edge of Walnut Canyon Village to the east of Flagstaff. However, her view is even better now, she says, because members of the community have largely changed their outdoor lighting to meet dark-sky standards.
“If you are a camper or a backpacker, looking into the endless depths of the universe is one of the greatest thrills when you are out and about,” she said. “It was frustrating when I was walking around the lake looking for a dark spot to see the stars because your eyes adjust to the bright lights and you can’t see that much. It is now a darker community than it was. “
A few years ago Michaels attended a Let There Be Night forum at the Museum of Northern Arizona. She was concerned when she heard that despite Flagstaff’s status as the First International Dark Sky City, light pollution continues to threaten the darkness of the night. She also learned that although Flagstaff and Coconino Counties have strong lighting ordinances, poor lighting fixtures and bright, white LEDs were often installed that degrade the night sky.
Those present divided into groups that made recommendations on how to counteract the loss of the dark sky. Michaels took the ideas to heart and brought them home.
“Some of us had never heard of a dark sky lighting project, which surprised us because the community has been here for more than 30 years,” said Gordon Jacobson, treasurer of the Walnut Canyon Village Home Owners‘ Association. “The HOA is responsible for the front lights [that illuminate the street address] at every house in the parish. We have made it our business to see what it takes to replace the original coach-style lamps. “
The community’s Beautification Committee, comprised of Michaels, Pat Monroe, and Bill Auberle, began researching lighting fixtures and worked with Chris Luginbuhl, chairman of the Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition (FDSC). This led to connections with APS and HomCo Lumber and Hardware.
HomCo Contractor Salesman Jonathan Whiteley worked with the community to find FDSC-recommended fixtures that block the light and focus on the ground. The group learned that amber light bulbs are better for nocturnal animals than bluish-white light.
HomCo Chief Financial Officer and General Manager Dan Groth spoke directly to lighting manufacturer Westinghouse to secure a discounted package deal for Walnut Canyon Village. “If we can get a better price, we’ll pass it on to the community,” said Groth, a former general contractor familiar with Flagstaff lighting ordinances. “We have started to equip the devices regularly. Now anyone in Flagstaff can go to our electronics department and find all of our dark sky lights in one area. “
For each of the 76 houses in Walnut Canyon Village, the HOA was able to purchase a lamp for each house that illuminates the street address. According to Auberle, most homeowners have chosen to buy and install the same light fixture for their other four outdoor lights.
“It made a difference. The initiative really encouraged others to do this voluntarily, ”he said. “And it’s a great thing. I’m ready to switch to a more energy-efficient, low-light fixture and it hasn’t broken the bank. “
“Most people are affected by light pollution from unshielded, harsh porch lights – at home where they live,” said Luginbuhl, a retired astronomer with the US Naval Observatory. “The homeowners at Walnut Canyon Village realized on their own initiative how much better they can make their neighborhoods with such a simple change – better for visibility of house numbers and sidewalks, and better for visibility of stars. The coalition appreciates your awareness and your help to bring even more stars to the Flagstaff night sky! “
Homeowners say they like to serve as an example of how a neighborhood can help protect and preserve the dark sky resource. “We’d love to speak to anyone who wants the information we’ve collected – what’s appropriate for this type of community, what the Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition recommends, and how to save money on lighting costs,” said Auberle.
For Michaels, it’s a handyman who feels great outside and feels even better inside, deep in her soul. “It’s huge when you can see the stars and annoying when you can’t, especially up here where we usually have these wonderfully clear skies.” FBN
By Bonnie Stevens, FBN