Metchosin values its dark nights

Policy ensures community’s star-gazing advantage will remain

Metchosinites are attempting to secure their darkness and stargazing opportunities by enacting light-pollution regulations.

Metchosin has some of the darkest night skies on the West Shore.

The district has recognized that importance by moving to put in writing low-lighting rules that some have been seeking for years.

“It puts a night sky policy at the village centre, (downtown Metchosin),” said Coun. Moralea Milne.

While the regulations were to be voted on by council Monday night (after the Gazette’s print deadline), the rural community has been working for some time with keen Metchosin residents on an unofficial policy to encourage dark skies. As part of that plan, approximately 30 street lights were changed so the beams shine only down, not up.

At a cost of about $500 per light, the housings were changed over several years. The move helped Metchosin win the Dark Sky Award from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, for the municipality’s work towards light pollution abatement.

Metchosin astronomy enthusiast Bill Weir was involved in writing the original proposal more than three years ago. He said reducing commercial and community building lights, encouraging owners to aim light only downward and installing motion sensor lighting, where appropriate, would further enhance the character of the municipality.

“From my perspective, if everyone along a road put up one of those large, bright, street pole yard lights that are on from dusk till dawn and shine in all directions, where is the rural character in this?” he asked.

“My wish for this proposal is that it is at least accepted as a guideline, so that when people wish to add lighting to their property or business they are guided towards making wiser choices.”

Milne said area residents are blessed with the opportunity to really see the sky at night, something more urban areas cannot do as easily.

“It’s important to me and the people of Metchosin to have that ability. We are a small enough community and footprint that we could change all the lighting without a huge impact on our budget,” she said.

Light pollution may also have a negative effect on migrating bird species, Milne said, adding that some studies show artificial light interferes with the magnetic compass of birds. They can also attract insects such as moths, drawing them away from their pollinating and mating roles.

“There is an incredible universe out there that we don’t know very much about and this gives us a little perspective on our lives,” she said. “(To) look out at the night sky and see that we are a little part of the universe, it is a little bit humbling and beautiful to look at.”

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