Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Stars shining bright after 10 years of dark skies in Ketchum

City's 'dark sky' ordinance hits milestone


By JON DUVAL
Express Staff Writer

Night sky enthusiast Steve Pauley was a main force in getting Ketchum to adopt a “dark-sky” ordinance to help keep urban lighting to a minimum.

It's said that the mark of a good referee is to not even be noticed during the game. The same could be said of Ketchum's Dark Sky Ordinance.

Many residents and guests might not realize that the remarkable sky views on clear nights are partly due to a decade-old ordinance that restricts emissions from outdoor lights. The ordinance was passed on June 21, 1999.

Sun Valley resident Dr. Steve Pauley, a star-gazing enthusiast who also helped craft similar ordinances for Sun Valley and Hailey, noted the 10-year anniversary of the ordinance in Ketchum this month.

"Ketchum takes much pride in its beautiful night skies," Pauley wrote in an e-mail to the Idaho Mountain Express. "The ordinance has improved our quality of life by eliminating light trespass, sky glow and glare."

The ordinance requires that streetlights be downcast and shielded in both commercial and residential areas.

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Ketchum was the first city in Idaho to adopt a dark sky ordinance, and Hailey and Sun Valley soon followed in 2002 and 2004, respectively.

In addition to making stars more visible, Pauley said the ordinance also has health benefits.

"Shielded lights in residential areas also serve to protect the public's health by eliminating light trespass into bedroom windows and allowing the normal full production of human melatonin between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.," Pauley wrote. "Melatonin is a protective anti-cancer hormone made in the pineal gland. Melatonin is lowered when the eye is exposed to light at night. There is a growing linkage between human eye exposure to light at night, low melatonin and breast cancer."

Jon Duval: jduval@mtexpress.com




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