Dark Skies

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RLEP Dark Skies Initiative

EVENT:    RLEP is hosting a RAPPAHANNOCK STARRY NIGHTS PRESENTATION
SATURDAY, October 29th,  5:30 PM  560 Battle Mountain Rd, Amissville, VA
Free admission.  See Home page for full information.

There is a tiny dark spot on the East Coast. Look closely. That is Rappahannock!

Mission:  RLEP’s Dark Skies Initiative promote our mission of keeping Rappahannock County natural by encouraging citizens voluntarily to reduce their use of artificial light at night.

Dark Skies ppt. 11.22.14   View this short Power Point Download for more information on Dark Skies and Lighting.

Rationale:

Our County’s Comprehensive Plan says(in Chapter 6) that its overarching goal is to keep Rappahannock a “scenic county”.  Also, the Plan’s very first goal is “To preserve the overall view-shed of the county in its unspoiled, natural setting, which gives it special character and identity.”

Our clear night skies are an important scenic value.  It is dark on average half the time.  During this time, scenic views are of the night sky, and valley and mountain landscapes lit only by moonlight and starlight.  Thus, it is imperative that these values are preserved by minimizing the use of artificial outside light at night.

Our clear night skies are unique, but can be easily lost by the use of artificial outside light.  When viewing Rappahannock County from space at night, we clearly have a ” special character” in our darkness compared to cities and other counties.

Preservation of clear skies also avoids injury to wildlife, increases tourism, reduces our carbon footprint, provides opportunities for study and inspiration, and promotes good neighbor behavior by avoiding light trespass.

Actions: 

RLEP seeks to achieve its mission by educating citizens on the importance of preserving clear nighttime skies, and providing financial incentives for citizens who wish to retain outside lights but shield them from other citizen’s property.  We also work with County leaders to ensure that the existing lighting ordinances for commercial properties is properly enforced and to address any questions or other issues affecting Rappahannock County.

Moon best

THE RAPPAHANNOCK NIGHT LIGHT

FAQ

I agree with preserving our unique dark skies, but I need some light on my property at night. Light shields are too expensive.  What can I do?

RLEP is working with Rappahannock Electric Cooperative to offer installation of shields at a deep discount. RLEP also is making funds available to defray installation costs.  Contact RLEP (rlep.org) for more information.

Whoa, I disagree! I need my barn light on to deter thieves.  And I don’t want the County interfering with my property rights.

We understand your position. RLEP is seeking only voluntary cooperation in connection with its Dark Skies Initiative.  So our actions will not affect your ability to light as you see fit.

We gently ask that you consider that property rights are enjoyed by your neighbors too. Just as you have the right, for example, to drive your vehicles across your fields, your neighbor has the property right to not have you drive your vehicles across his fields.  So it is with lights.  You can burn your lights all night long, but doesn’t your neighbor have the property right not to have your light shine in his bedroom window or obscure his views?  Consideration of your neighbors is a country value.

Placing downward-facing shields on outside lights allows you to “have your cake and eat it too.”  That is, you could light up your own property without shining light on your neighbors.  As noted, RLEP is working to defray the cost of installing shields for those who choose to do so.

RLEP’s central mission is to keep the County natural. The natural way is the country, rural way.  We are unique that our nighttime sky and landscape vistas are pristine.  One can see the Milky Way here, for example, but it is not as clearly visible – and usually not visible at all — in the cities surrounding Rappahannock County.  Are clear nighttime vistas a characteristic of  country-life?  We believe the answer is clear and beautiful.

I understand that RLEP is focused only on voluntary actions to reduce artificial outside light at night, but what about new, commercial lights?

You are correct that RLEP’s Dark Skies Initiative seeks only voluntary actions to reduce outside light at night. The County does have a light ordinance for new commercial establishments.  RLEP will work to ensure this ordinance is properly enforced.

Where can I obtain more information about dark skies?

There is an increasing appreciation for the value of preserving dark skies across our country and the world. A lot of information is available on the web.  In addition to RLEP’s website (rlep.org), a good starting place is the International Dark Sky Association, http://darksky.org.