What happened to the dark skies ordinance?
Guest Post by Michael Chambers
What happened to the dark skies ordinance? It seems that, except for a few businessmen, the idea of protecting our dark skies was a no-brainer. Somehow all this got lost in the illumination of Ninigret Park and nighttime sports in the park. As a friend told me, there is no need to include all of Charlestown in the night sky plan because some people need the lighting to demonstrate their patriotic fervor by lighting an American Flag all night long. It is good to know that my neighbors are patriotic even as they slumber. There are lights for flagpoles that shine downward. They can be purchased without a lot of expense. I asked about taking the flag down at dusk and was told that was too much trouble. Ah patriotism!! You’re fine as long as it remains cheap and passive.
But even more important than that is the fact that people feel safer when their property is lit with flood lights all night long. In this way they can feel safe whether the intrusion is from the left, right, ground level or from the air. Using shielded lights will keep the left and right and ground level intrusions in plain view but not the overhead intrusions. Ok, so we have to worry about those paratroopers – second story men who prey on the elderly and infirm. How can we survive an attack of such marauders without flood lighting the skies? People want maximum lighting for maximum protection against those who would attack them from above. Maybe these folks would feel safe with the WWII klieg lights and searchlights scanning the skies.
Finally, the commercial entrepreneurs, who feel that they have a vested interest in this town, and Charlestown should have a vested interest in them. This to the tune of offering them grants to put a $15 shield per flood light on their premises. As I recall, homeowners, who needed to change their cesspools to septic tanks at more than $10,000 per unit, were offered 2% loans, not grants. How can such grants be justified? It sounded very much like the commercial sector was doing the citizens of our town a favor by locating in Charlestown. Charlestown is a good place to conduct business. Perhaps the commercial sector prefers to locate in towns with a higher rate of crime than in Charlestown so they can vertically illuminate their property. I, like many of my neighbors, make a special effort to deal with local businesses even though the costs may be higher. I would expect that the businesses would be happy to work with the town even though lighting may cost slightly more.
People like being in Charlestown for many reasons, one of which is the night skies. Probably the most ardent arguments for dark skies came from the person on the street who moved here from a more urban area and was awestruck by the celestial display that was theirs for free. How people spoke in reverential tones about their feelings when first seeing the stars, not one or two, but billions! They spoke of the legacy they leave their children, the skies, stars, clarity of the moon, how awe-inspiring the skies became here in Charlestown. Here I need to interject. Those skies are not a legacy from us to our children, but are ours on loan to us from our children.