Saving Dark Skies
Saving Dark Skies
Rappahannock County is a tiny dark spot in a sea of East Coast artificial light where we are still able to see and enjoy star-filled night skies.
RLEP is working to protect our night skies for present and future generations.
RLEP’s Saving Dark Skies initiative began in 2017 and focuses on protecting Rappahannock’s night skies.
We encourage citizens to voluntarily reduce their use of artificial outdoor light at night and support the Rappahannock County Park as a designated International Dark Sky Association’s Dark Sky Park.
Pole Light Replacement
RLEP offers FREE replacement of existing outdoor pole lights with energy-efficient, LED dark-sky compliant light fixtures.
The replacement lights produce equivalent or better lighting of targeted areas while reducing unwanted glare for surrounding properties.
The pole lights are dark-sky compliant, community-friendly and fully down-shielded with a warm color (2700K).
To further reduce glare, a light shield can be added to privately-owned lights.
RLEP has installed dark-sky compliant lights, free of charge, at Rappahannock County Schools, B&B Auto, The Corner Store, Shaw’s Services, Amissville Baptist Church, Hackley Store and numerous other locations. RLEP and supporting organizations cover all replacement costs.
See our Saving Dark Skies brochure for a program snapshot.
For more detail on light replacement and specifications for dark-sky compliant lights, see our Dark Skies Replacement Light Information Packet.
Rappahannock’s Dark Sky Park
In 2019, the International Dark-Sky Association awarded the Rappahannock County Park a Silver Tier Dark Sky Park designation.
According to IDA standards, Silver corresponds to nighttime environments that have minor impacts from light pollution and other artificial light disturbance, yet still display good quality night skies and have exemplary nighttime lightscapes.
It is the smallest Dark Sky Park in existence at only 7 acres.
See EVENTS for information on Dark Sky Park events.
Go to RESOURCES on this website for additional Dark Sky publications and presentations.
RLEP was born in 1970 during a successful fight to ensure that the State Corporation Commission did not approve a proposed power line that would have forever scarred the viewshed along the eastern boundary of the Blue Ridge.
In the ensuing 50+ years, we have continued to keep a careful eye on any proposed transmission lines, pipelines and commercial developments in Rappahannock or adjacent counties that might affect the unspoiled landscapes which make our county so special.
Early on, RLEP encouraged the hiring of the first County Administrator and the development of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first County Comprehensive Plan, long before such planning became a legal requirement.
RLEP’s input has informed and improved each subsequent revision of the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
RLEP stays in close touch with our conservation partners to study the activities of the Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors, the General Assembly in Richmond and the U.S. Congress and determine their potential effect on our environment.
RLEP will continue to maintain a close working relationship with agencies at all levels of government and keep our members informed about key land use decisions and programs.
The Nature of Rappahannock
~a stroll for the soul
We all know and love the beautiful vistas and sweeping views in Rappahannock County. This is why RLEP’s mission to conserve the natural resources and rural character of the county is so important.
But as in all things, details matter. RLEP’s monthly walks provide an opportunity to slow down and pay attention to the details of what makes this place so special.
Each month, we stroll through a different ecological treasure to gain an appreciation for how it works, why it is important, how it is threatened and what we can do to protect it.
Our walks are an immersion into the ecosystems that constitute the county.
Examples include rich cove forests, grasslands, streams, wetlands, reforested pastures and pine forests.
The walks are held on the 3rd Saturday of the month at 10:00 AM, October – April; at 8:00 AM, May – September.
For a schedule of upcoming walks, see EVENTS.
- Limit: 15 people (first come, first served)
- Registration required.
- No charge; donations to RLEP always welcome
- About 1 1⁄2 – 2 hours of walking
RLEP supports programs and activities for youth that nurture an understanding of and an appreciation for the natural world.
Rappahannock Nature Camp
The Rita Lazar Memorial Fund supports the Rappahannock Nature Camp, a summertime day camp in the mountains of Rappahannock County.
Lyt Wood and RLEP established Rapp Nature Camp, open to campers 8 to 16 years of age, in 1986.
Its mission: “To allow individuals, especially children, to discover for themselves the wonder and beauty of the natural world, and to understand what it means to be a part of a community of living things.”
Nature Camp, Vesuvius, VA
The Bob Dennis Scholarship typically sends a couple of Rappahannock County youth each year for two fun-filled weeks of study to Nature Camp in the George Washington National Forest near the small town of Vesuvius, VA.
Nature Camp is a private, non-profit residential co-ed summer camp dedicated to experiential environmental education.
The Virginia Federation of Garden Clubs created the camp in 1942.
Our participants give it high marks!
One great thing about nature is that it is unpredictable, and there are new things happening all the time. I carry the philosophy of Nature Camp into my life outside of camp, and I believe that Nature Camp has made me care more about the world around me.
~Nicholas Plaksin, a Nature Camp camper
If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years….
~Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder:
A Celebration of Nature for Parents and Children
Homegrown National Park®
It is easy to think that Rappahannock County, with its rolling hills, sylvan forests and fertile farms, is a refuge from environmental challenges occurring elsewhere.
But nature is struggling all around us: 1) numbers of pollinators and insects are dropping to perilous levels; 2) bird populations are down exponentially; and 3) explosive growth of invasive species threatens our native wildlife, trees and plants.
In response to these challenges, RLEP is encouraging Rappahannock citizens and businesses to consider taking part in a new national voluntary initiative entitled “Homegrown National Park®”.
This is a national challenge for homeowners, property owners, farmers, businesses, schools and parks – anyone with space to plant – to remove invasives, plant natives and help restore biodiversity where we live and work. The program provides information to guide you every step of the way.
With Shenandoah National Park in our backyard, what better place to start restoring nature one yard/one field at a time than in our own Rappahannock County?
The goal is audacious: return 20 million acres of land to native trees and plants.
This is equivalent to converting 1/2 of the green lawns of privately owned property to landscapes that nourish insects, birds, soil and the living environment around us.
To chart and build progress towards this goal, participants are invited to:
1. “Get on the Map” on Homegrown National Park’s website.
Anyone can record their native plantings and invasive removals, whether they are new plantings or existing.
2. Put Up a Sign to show you are part of this national project and encourage others to do the same.
View our BROCHURE on key steps to make your yard a Homegrown National Park.
RLEP will provide education on this initiative through lectures, Zoom presentations, newsletters and social media.
Also, we will sponsor volunteer opportunities to remove invasives and plant natives along nature pathways and on public grounds in the county.
For more information, as well as local experts and providers, please see our RESOURCES section.
RLEP has adopted the section of Route 211 between Amissville and the Fauquier County line, both east and west bound, as part of VDOT’s program to enhance the environment and improve the appearance of local roadsides through organized litter pickups.
This section of Route 211 serves as a gateway to the county for visitors from the DC and Northern Virginia metropolitan areas and showcases RLEP’s mission to keep Rappahannock beautiful.
For announcements of upcoming litter pickup events, see EVENTS
Annual Scholarship Program
RLEP has established an annual scholarship award, which will be administered by the Headwaters Foundation.
This award, up to $2,500 total, will be granted to one or more Rappahannock County students who demonstrate an interest in pursuing a career or advanced study related to environmental protection, natural resource conservation, environmental technology, earth science, or the intersection of environment and culture through environmental studies.
The potential areas of study include, but are not limited to: Environmental Science and Engineering, Biochemistry, Meteorology, Hydrology, Geology, Food Science, Foodways, Environmental Studies, and Alternative Energy.
Suitable candidates may be attending or planning to attend an accredited 2-year school, 4-year school, trade/technical school, or certification program.