Helper City Pursues Dark-Sky Community Certification

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By Helper City Mayor Lenise Peterman

Helper City is currently pursuing Dark-Sky Community certification through the International Dark-Sky Association.

This effort is focused on protecting our dark sky environment from light pollution. Benefits of this effort include supporting health and heritage, protecting wildlife habitat, saving money and providing access to celestial discovery for astronomers, both professional and amateur.

Thusly, Helper City has passed an ordinance to govern lighting to ensure we are sensitive to the impact of lighting at night. The adopted ordinance promotes environmentally responsible outdoor lighting, which includes pointing lights downward, shielding lights properly, the use of amber lighting versus blue lighting and managing the timing of neon lights on Main Street, among others.

To undertake this effort, we are simply considering the design of outdoor lighting and how it may provide better service. Outdoor lighting should ideally enhance visibility, not impede it by producing excess glare or light trespass into other properties. An important point to stress is as follows: dark-sky does not equate to dark ground. Proper landscape lighting is a fundamental key to the overall effort of protecting dark skies.

In current times, it is very important for lighting to be a part of the total nightscape. The overriding concern of lighting is to be functional; therefore, safety is a top priority when designing and implementing lighting changes, alterations or upgrades. The International Dark-Sky Association understands the purpose of lighting safety and is leading the way in directing how this can be accomplished while protecting dark skies.

Along with these activities, Helper also supports a “Dark Skies Observers” Club, which hosts guest speakers and dark sky viewing events open to the public. The city was awarded a grant through the Helper Library and was able to purchase telescopes, iPads and other items for use to explore dark skies. They regularly host their night viewing events near the Helper Cemetery and encourage everyone with an interest to attend.

Helper is excited to begin this process of certification and hope to be successful in our effort. We have been assigned a Dark Skies liaison, Adam Dalton, who is familiar with Helper and our efforts. He was one of the graduate students who participated in the lighting survey conducted in Helper in May of 2017. We are fortunate to have him assigned to our efforts.

We also have established a relationship with Robin Carbaugh of Carbaugh Associates, Inc. to sponsor our application. Carbaugh Associates is a community building firm using engaged, sustainable planning with design and public policy to create thriving locations. As well, Robin is a member of the Dark Skies Association.

“Through its dark sky efforts, Helper City is taking advantage of an opportunity to highlight and protect a uniquely important and often undervalued natural asset,” Carbaugh said. “In working toward Dark Sky Designation, Helper City is really stepping up its commitment for creating a safe, healthy, lively and inspired community. And by giving support to the Dark Skies Observers Club, the city helps foster great experiences for families and friends to take in the important, wonderful and awe inspiring night sky.”

We are excited to build strategic relationships with both Adam and Robin.

In closing, Helper is poised to be an astro-tourism location and proud to work on this effort. It is yet another draw to our amazing historic, recreational and artistic town!

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