Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dark Sky Movement has Virginia Roots

Over 40 years ago Lexington native Kurt Riegel  published in Science a seminal paper on light pollution, its impact to astronomy, and measures for limiting its expansion.  You can reach a PDF of the paper here.  Through its publishing Riegel connected with astronomer David Crawford who went on to co-found the International Dark-Sky Association in 1988.  Had leaders and communities heeded Riegel's recommendations with local, state, and national policies and practices, chances are the Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness would look very different..

Alleghany Highlands May Pioneer Virginia Dark-Sky Tourism

In October, the Valley Conservation Council sponsored a Dark-Sky Summit at Douthat State Park in Bath County, hosting 30 local leaders from the Alleghany-Highland region to discuss the potential for becoming a dark-sky destination and joining the ranks of astro-tourism locations throughout the world.
Op/ed coverage of this watershed event:

Roanoke Times Editorial "Virginia's Dark Sky Country"
Virginia IDA's Laura Greenleaf in response.

Roanoke Times Editorial Dark Skies on "Christmas Wish List"
In response, local resident points out that pointlessly overlit highway exits contradict dark sky goal.

Friday, October 30, 2015

NY DOT Ignores Best Practices for LED, Installs Glaring Streetlights

Brooklynites are pushing back at the city for giving their neighborhoods that prison-yard feel and intruding on their homes with the bright blue light of 4,000 Kelvin LED streetlights. For several years research and experience have been pointing toward prevention of the worst outcomes of misguided LED adoption.  A year ago IDA revised the Color Correlated Temperature standard for their Fixture Seal of Approval program to 3,200 Kelvin.  Former IDA executive director Bob Parks met with the NY DOT and Mayor's office to urge them to use lower CCT lights and smart controls, but they didn't heed his advice or best practices.  Read Lionel Shriver's recent OpEd piece urging the city to make it right.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The End of Night is 2015 One Book, One Community selection

The Handley Regional Library System in Winchester has chosen Paul Bogard's The End of Night as their selection for One Book, One Community 2015 with a series of events unfolding in September. Check out the calendar here

It's Official: Virginia is home to 25th International Dark Sky Park!

Congratulations Staunton River State Park and Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society!  Nothing demonstrates the momentum in The Old Dominion for night sky conservation like the incredible achievement of having a state park certified as a dark sky place.  The Richmond Times Dispatch reprinted this article from the Danville Register and Bee. 

Summer update from Va. IDA

[The following e-mail was sent to Virginia IDA members and supporters in June]

2015 already has been an unprecedented year for the Virginia chapter of IDA with more concern for Virginia's night and its skies than ever.  Laura Graham and I have been busy responding to "SOS calls" and requests for presentations, event displays, and support for Virginia's first proposed Dark Sky Place.   We've assisted local advocates, delivered several presentations (with more on the schedule), and soon we'll know if Staunton River State Park in southside Virginia will be the next Dark Sky Park!  Check out this and other news:

1) Events 
2) News Williamsburg lights up; Staunton River State Park  turns them down (and out); City of Staunton celebrates the night for Earth Day
3) Member recognition


  •  Paul Bogard's "The End of Night" is Handley Library's 2015 One Book, One Community selection. Paul will be speaking at Daniel Morgan Middle School in Winchester on September 23rd so if you are local to the northern Shenandoah Valley please mark your calendar! 
  • upcoming presentations by Va. IDA
       Saturday, July 11th   Bryan Park Nature Center, Richmond, VA  10:30 a.m. - noon.  Visit Nature Center schedule and scroll down for details.
        Monday, July 13th     Shenandoah Astronomical Society, Lord Fairfax Community College, Middletown, VA

        Saturday, July 25th    Potomac Audubon Society, Kearneysville, WV  10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. For details, visit here.

        Thursday, September 17th Blandy Experimental Farm (State Arboretum of Virginia), Boyce, VA  7:00 p.m.   This is part of the One Book, One Community series of events. Details later.

(earlier 2015 presentations included:  Newtown Historic District Neighborhood Association Winter Social, Staunton; Star Party hosted by Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society at Staunton River State Park; and Richmond Astronomical Society)


Colonial Williamsbur
g to uplight historic buildings
In April the Williamsburg Architectural Review Board approved Colonial Williamsburg's proposal to use uplighting on eight historic buildings.  Va. IDA provided support to a long-time IDA member who consistently advocated for dark-sky best practices.  While Va. IDA was and is opposed to uplighting of historic buildings, the thorough, articulate, and respectful participation in the public comment process did result in a curfew and a Color Correlated Temperature limit below 3,000K.  Read  local coverage of the decision here.  An article in a different online publication gave more attention to our concerns, but is no longer available.   Va. IDA's Williamsburg presence will continue to monitor the implementation of the illumination.

Staunton River State Park applies for Dark Sky Park certification
When the Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society was looking for an accessible dark sky location for observation gatherings and Star Parties they crossed the North Carolina border to Virginia's Staunton River State Park and became our most determined and effective advocates for night sky conservation and responsible outdoor lighting.  Over the past several years they've forged a strong bond with the park's staff and the surrounding communities.  The partnership evolved into a plan to create an IDA-certified Dark Sky Park in Virginia.   Read about Staunton River's bid for Dark Sky Place status here

Staunton (Shenandoah Valley) Makes Earth Day All About the Night
And further west the city of Staunton made Starry Nights the theme of its Earth Day celebration.  The Earth Day committee also gave public recognition to members of the community that have employed shielded fixtures.

A big thank you to  Sue Mayes and Barbara Fore of Henrico County for providing us with a dozen or more copies of IDA's Fighting Light Pollution: Smart Solutions for Individuals and Communities.  We use these as door prizes at presentations and to provide free to new advocates grappling with light pollution problems in their neighborhoods and communities.   Thank you!


Laura Greenleaf
co-leader, Va. chapter of the International Dark Sky Association
renew your membership or join IDA 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Uplighting Colonial Williamsburg

Last night the local Architectural Review Board approved a plan to uplight eight historic buildings in Colonial Williamsburg with LED fixtures. Unfortunately this decision came too quickly to get IDA's evaluation of the final plans.  An IDA member in Williamsburg worked diligently for months to provide input on this decision and possibly prevent the uplighting altogether.  In the end officials made important concessions and gave attention to issues of Color Correlated Temperature and output intensity.   You can read more here including my comment at the end of the article (click on the comment bubble icon if comments are not visible).

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Staunton's Earth Day All About the Night

 In February I had the pleasure of being the guest speaker at the Winter Soup Social of the Newtown [Historic District]Neighborhood Association in Staunton, Virginia. The room was packed, the people were amazing, and my family and I were so glad we had made a weekend of it because downtown Staunton is a place you don't want to leave.
And now, as far as I know, Staunton is the first community in Virginia to make nightscapes and dark skies the focus of its Earth Day celebration.  Check out the fantastic line up and consider booking your room at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel to enjoy the Shenandoah springtime!

2015 International Dark Sky Week Begins April 13th!

Visit the IDA website every day this week to learn more about light pollution--its health and ecological consequences, the energy it wastes, why lighting that conserves our night skies is also better for public safety, and what you can do to help make a difference.

Powhatan County's 2014 ordinance

This is the link for Powhatan County's 2014 Zoning Ordinance. To find the section on exterior lighting, go to page 254, section 83-649.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Dark Sky Conservation Begins at Home

2015 began with news that is music to our ears:  Virginia's own Staunton River State Park is poised to submit an application to IDA for certified Dark Sky status.  The park's manager, Adam Layman, and the Chapel Hill Astronomical Observational Society have led this effort and worked toward certification over the past year.  The park has a Bortle's scale reading of between 3 and 4 and is shooting for a Silver rating.

Read more: State park seeks dark sky certification.

Virginia IDA applauds and supports Staunton River Stat Park's aspirations.  The IDA Dark Sky Places program protects and conserves night skies as the natural resource that they are.  Dark Sky Parks give visitors back their view of the stars while educating them about how light pollution has unnecessarily stolen our night sky heritage for many decades.  To paraphrase a quote from IDA's own Scott Kardel, "if someone has never seen and experienced a forest, why would they care about protecting a forest?"  

Want to see Staunton River State Park's skies for yourself?  Join the Star Party March 19 - 22nd!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014 Wrap Up

A Solstice message from Laura Greenleaf, co-leader of the Virginia chapter of IDA sent to the mailing list. Like to get these occasional updates? Just send a request to

As the year comes to its close I want to let you know what the Virginia chapter of the International Dark Sky Association has been up to this year--or at least share some highlights of our volunteer work. We have been busy . . .
1) Reversing glare and light trespass on private property in Henrico County  We intervened successfully on behalf of residents whose home (outside and in) was lit up like a football field from a poorly designed and implemented LED installation at the new fire station next door. After months of effort including testimony to the Board of Supervisors and consultation from then IDA Executive Director Bob Parks, Henrico County officials reduced excessive illumination levels and switched fixtures to a "warmer" Color Correlated Temperature (five lamps were changed from 90 bulb 5,000Kelvin arrays to 30 bulb 3,000Kelvin arrays). This project has been a case study in the pitfalls of LED lighting when it is used carelessly and we learned so much in the process of analyzing the installation (with piles of county FOIA documents obtained by the home owner) and researching best practices.   We're so pleased to have made a tangibly positive difference with our advocacy (the "before" and "after" photos speak loudly). And IDA has two grateful new members.

2) Contributing to updated outdoor lighting guidelines in Richmond  Members of Richmond's Urban Design Committee sought our expertise as they began revising guidelines for outdoor lighting.  Our input has already made a difference in new applications.  The new guidelines will be finalized early next year.

3) Promoting best practices for LED lighting in Powhatan County The lessons learned in Henrico will benefit other communities.  Powhatan is already home to one of the strongest ordinances in the state, if not the best, but groundless corporate claims had prevailed when it came to limiting Color Correlated Temperature (CCT).  That's likely to  change soon now that IDA has issued their new Fixture Seal of Approval standards that include limiting harmful blue-white light emissions with a CCT maximum of 3,000Kelvin.

4) Supporting advocates from across Virginia  Throughout the year we were in touch with residents promoting wise use of outdoor lighting and/or fighting intrusive glare and light trespass at home from Louisa County to Loudoun County. We help in whatever way we can including guidance, our electronic library of resources, copies of books, etc.

5) Providing outreach and education In March I was the featured presenter and a panel member for an event focused on lighting and public safety that was part of Starry Nights Harrisonburg organized by The End of Night author and JMU professor Paul Bogard and JMU planetarium director Shanil Virani. 

2015 will begin with two more presentations--in Staunton and Williamsburg.  As a Virginia Master Naturalist, I am also assisting with development of a cultural/natural history education program that will focus on the experience of the night time environment in centuries past.

While Virginia IDA is not a stand-alone nonprofit and we do not accept donations, we are part of IDA and I encourage you to consider membershipIt's been a great year for IDA:  six more parks received eco-friendly lighting,13 more dark sky places were certified, Florida's sea turtles will soon benefit from increased protection, and public awareness continues to grow.  Please consider helping us strive toward the achievable goal of bringing back our view of the thousands of stars we erase with our wasted light (like at Mont-Megantic where light pollution levels are now back to what they were in the 1970s!).

with best wishes to you at this special time of year~


Laura Greenleaf
co-leader, Virginia chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association