Basalt to reclaim its dark skies |

Basalt to reclaim its dark skies

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT ” Basalt residents are taking the initiative to try to reclaim the midvalley’s dark skies.

The Basalt Green Team, a group of citizens and town government officials, got a green light Tuesday night from the Town Council to work on a plan to soften the glare of outdoor lighting. The Green Team will conduct research, then propose a plan that must be approved by the council.

Light pollution is “taking away what we love so much,” Green Team spokesman Tripp Adams told the council.

There is a countrywide movement to reduce light pollution, in part, so that the stars can be more easily seen in the night sky. In the mountains, many people take delight in walking outdoors at night and gandering at stars, and watching the moon soak the slopes.

The Green Team wants the town to update the lighting section of its building code by adopting guidelines from the International Dark Sky Association or something similar. Updated rules would dictate outdoor lighting for new residential and commercial development, but not be retroactive to existing development. The Green Team members hope that leading by example would provide incentives for existing development to retrofit lighting, if necessary, to reduce the glare and light pollution.

Adams said once businesses, homeowners and institutions learn that they will save money on electric bills through more efficient lights without sacrificing lighting, they might voluntarily make changes.

“It’s not about losing lighting, it’s about proper illumination,” he said.

Basalt adopted its current lighting code in 1998. Since then, giant strides have been made, according to Aaron Humphrey, director of lighting design for a Carbondale firm called Airmada. He is advising the Green Team on lighting issues.

Humphrey said LED lights, for example, have advanced so far in the last decade that they are now commonly used in street lights. Federal legislation will eliminate the lightbulb “as we know it now” by 2012, he said.

Humphrey said many outdoor fixtures can be retrofitted to direct light down rather than spray it out and up, without great expense. Basalt Town Manager and Green Team member Bill Efting said the community will only buy into lighting code changes if it doesn’t come at a great cost.

“I will be the first to scream bloody murder if it’s a whole lot more money than we thought,” Efting said.

Council members identified the Basalt schools and the U.S. Post Office as two of the worst light pollution offenders. They expressed hope that those governmental entities will see improvements in lighting elsewhere in town and follow the examples.

No deadline was set for the Green Team to return to the council with a proposal, but it was clear from comments that council members could see the light.