“Wow! Is that the Milky Way?”
“I’ve never seen it before!”
Just two of the comments I have heard recently in Rappahannock County related to our beautiful dark skies. Not dark ground, or dark landscapes, just dark skies, and this makes Rappahannock very unique. A place where we can enjoy sights not seen clearly — if at all — from many surrounding counties. You may remember a recent article in this newspaper regarding the designation of our Rappahannock County Park as an International Dark Sky Park. Pretty special, I’d say.
I visit our family home often, next door to Hackley’s Country Store in Amissville — a family property for generations. With each visit during the past year, I became increasingly concerned that the lighting around Hackley’s needed to be corrected. Some of the lights were not working, and the ones that were did not direct light where it was needed. Much of it directed upward — lighting signs can be tricky!
Around the same time, coincidentally, the Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection (RLEP) was in the process of adopting the Dark Skies program as one of its missions. RLEP President Rick Kohler had told me that Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) would switch out the light on the pole they own at the corner of the store’s parking lot with a dark sky compliant one.
I called REC (540-727-2168) and they did in fact come promptly and replaced it. I was amazed by how much brighter the parking lot seemed with just that one change. The light is now directed downward, instead of in all directions as before.
There were still several dark spots in and around other parts of the property, creating shadows and causing concern. I spoke with Torney Van Acker, Facilitator of the RLEP Dark Skies Committee, regarding replacement of all the store’s lights with dark sky compliant ones. He immediately scheduled a time to talk, met with me to consult, and we made the decisions necessary to bring the store property into compliance.
Within weeks, all the lights had been replaced by Torney and his team. Such a difference! The sky over Amissville has never been darker, and the visibility around the store and my mom’s front yard increased dramatically. Because of the energy efficient bulbs that are in use, energy costs have gone down as well.
Replacing unshielded outdoor lighting is a service of RLEP to any resident, business or place of worship in the county. The service is provided free of charge although donations are welcomed.
The Amissville United Methodist Church and Amissville Baptist Church have installed dark sky compliant lighting as well, and I am hoping other Amissville businesses and churches will follow suit. I would like to challenge other villages to follow Amissville’s lead in making the Milky Way even more visible than ever before. If you are interested in the options for dark sky compliant lighting on your property, or would like to donate to this worthy cause, please reach out to Torney at 703-250-7943. Many thanks to all those who have supported this project!