The City of Cottonwood has become the newest addition to the International Dark Sky Places Program, as an International Dark Sky Community. In an effort to continue to promote and protect our dark skies, it has been a mission of the City to obtain this designation since 2016. Working with the community as a whole, the City of Cottonwood has become the 23rd designated dark sky community in the world. The State of Arizona now accounts for 6 of those dark sky communities, with 4 of the 6 communities located in the Verde Valley. Light pollution affects the world as a whole, not only does it disrupt the natural day-night pattern but it also has negative impacts on the ecosystem, wildlife, and human health. Committing to being a dark sky community not only benefits the City but the surrounding community.
As part of Yavapai County, buildings in Cottonwood are required to ensure that outdoor lighting is compliant with dark-skies ordinances, aimed at reducing light pollution and keeping the stars visible at night. Like many communities in the county, Cottonwood has gone beyond Yavapai’s regulations to encourage even more stargazer-friendly lighting; at a city council meeting on Oct. 2, 2018 Cottonwood amended its dark-sky ordinance with stricter rules.
Cottonwood sought to become the next community in the Verde Valley to become recognized as an International Dark-Sky Community by the International Dark-Sky Association.
“I think a lot of people are drawn to Cottonwood because of the natural beauty that we have surrounding us, and a big part of that is a sky where you can see the stars at night,” Cottonwood Mayor Tim Elinski said. “When you come down to the city of Phoenix or any large municipal area and see the glow on the horizon, it’s not always a welcoming sign. The more we can do to keep our skies dark the more attractive the community will be. I think preserving that for the future is an important thing to do.”
The amended regulations are mostly the same as they were before in regard to private lighting, with the main addition being requirements for low-temperature ratings for outdoor lights, not exceeding 3000 lumens. Beyond that, the regulations continue Cottonwood’s rules for shielded lights of limited brightness facing downwards to prevent light pollution.
“To say that there’s going to be a big effect on residential community — it’s not at all,” Cottonwood Code Enforcement Coordinator Christina Anderson said of the changes. “Almost every single commercial property within the city limits has changed their lighting, their signage, all sorts of things in the last 10 years anyway, so they’ve already been complying with that IDA requirement for shielded lighting and the correct lumens.”
The ordinance passed by the city council does require the city itself to take more action to reach IDA compliance, with new rules for municipal buildings. The ordinance prevents any municipal building from adding new outdoor lighting at night, unless the city manager deems it necessary for public safety, in addition to seeking curfews, motion detectors, and other efforts to limit unnecessary light pollution for existing municipal lighting.
A major effect of the new ordinance is to put a timeline on bringing the city into IDA compliance within 10 years, the ordinance states in reference to government properties.
Astronomy fanatics in the Verde Valley have long pushed for more municipalities in the area to work to darken their skies and get IDA certification. They hope that when all have joined Camp Verde, Sedona and VOC, the valley could be designated as an internationally recognized dark-skies area.
“This is very important for tourism, and astronomy clubs,” Community Development Manager Berrin Nejad said. “I think Cottonwood deserves that, and that’s why with our neighbors’ movements, it was time for us to take the next step.”
Originally published by journalaz.com