County among few places in East with visible Milky Way
By Torney Van Acker
Special to the Rappahannock News
A free pole light replacement program to protect Rappahannock County’s rare night sky is being launched by the Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection (RLEP).
The voluntary program is available at no cost, whether the pole lights are leased from Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) or are privately-owned.
Have you ever stepped outside on a clear night and stood in awe of the stars? If so, you are among the few in the United States who still have that privilege. In fact, 80 percent of Americans cannot see the Milky Way from where they live. And many people alive today have never seen the Milky Way.
Rappahannock County is one of the few places on the East Coast where we are still able to enjoy a star-filled night sky. Our night sky is a rare and wondrous asset worth preserving—and enhancing—for present and future generations.
While Rappahannock’s night sky is worth protecting, people need outdoor lighting when the sun goes down. Farmers need lights to work after dark. Homes, businesses, schools and churches are among the places that rely on outdoor lights for safety and security. Lighted walkways are a necessity, particularly for older Americans.
So RLEP is launching the pole light replacement program to protect the night sky while providing lighting that provides equivalent or better illumination to ensure safety and security. Research has shown that fully shielded lights actually improve security because they reduce glare that impairs visibility.
There are multiple benefits:
• It’s smart. Fully-shielded lights focus all the light downward on targeted areas while maintaining and enhancing our dark skies. Replacing these lights offers the right level of illumination for improving safety and security after sunset.
• It’s free. RLEP pays for all replacement costs with support from the Piedmont Environmental Council’s Krebser Fund for Rappahannock County and the Trinity Episcopal Church.
• It’s voluntary and easy to do.
• It saves electricity. Replacement lights use 60 percent less power.
• It saves money. A single light replacement can reduce an annual electric bill by up to $50, depending on the type of light being replaced.
For more information on replacement of both REC-leased and privately-owned lights, contact RLEP at 703-250- 7943 or go to rlep.org/pole-light- replacement-project.
The writer is RLEP’s Dark Sky Committee Facilitator