Texas Best Lobbying News: Texas Parks, Towns Embrace Dark Sky Movement
The following is a digest of a story that originally appeared at the Texas Tribune. The Texas Lobby Group is posting this summary as a public service for other Lobbyists and lobbying groups, for Texas political consultants, and other interested parties.
In the last few years, Texas State Parks have experienced many difficulties. The state park system is currently grappling with slashed funding and very low visitor rates. State Parks have started a focus on prime nighttime sky views as a way to reel in visitors, generating more revenue. Next summer, the Texas State Park system will be launching an official campaign to encourage people and businesses to turn off their lights. This markets the parks as a great place for stargazing, and also saves energy and preserves the skies natural beauty. Too much “light pollution” can entirely eliminate the views of stargazers. With urban areas spreading, this has become a growing problem.
“The parks and wildlife department, eager to set an example, wants to retrofit lighting in its parks, and since state funding for such purposes is essentially nonexistent, advocacy groups, along with the McDonald Observatory, are helping out. ‘The areas where you can actually go to see a dark sky are shrinking, and there are parks in the middle of a lot of them,’ Wren said. He did some work recently at Hueco Tanks State Park, east of El Paso, and it ‘didn’t require any funding, just a step-ladder and a screwdriver, to re-aim some floodlights,’ he said.”
What Texas state parks are ultimately hoping for is the legendary “dark sky” status. This is issued by “The International Dark Sky Association”, which is based in Arizona. Big Bend National park is the only state park in Texas to receive the status. This title is quite elusive, as only nine other places worldwide have seen clear enough skies to receive the title.
Some lights are necessary, like street lights. Others are a result of people or businesses just not turning their lights off. Making a point to do so is aesthetically pleasing for stargazers and state parks, but it also saves a great deal of energy that is otherwise being wasted after the sun goes down. A campaign through the state parks to remind citizens to preserve energy will benefit the earth, and those who experience it. It will also, hopefully, attract more funding and visitors for our parks.