April 2024 – Parks & Recreation - 50

OPERATIONS
Protecting Dark Skies
By Robert Parrish, M.A.
W
hen I was a boy growing up in rural Michigan during the
early 1960s, the Milky Way was a prevalent celestial nighttime
object that, along with the space race to the moon,
ingrained a love of the night sky in me that remains to this
day. My dad also figured into the equation. His service in the U.S. Navy
offered the opportunity to learn about the stars. After moving back to rural
Michigan, we shared many summer nights fending off mosquitos while
taking in some of Mother Nature's best artwork.
We can protect ourselves and the
environment and bring back the
beauty and splendor of a star-filled
night sky by reducing light pollution.
Effects of Light Pollution
Light pollution occurs when excessive
or misdirected artificial lighting
obscures the darkness of the night
sky. Instead of enjoying a sky full of
stars, our cities, towns and rural areas
are illuminated by a blanket of
bright lights that never seem to dim.
Light pollution disrupts the natuI
lost my father four years ago,
and he became my inspiration for attaining
International Dark Sky Park
status for Dr. Lawless Park in Cass
County, Michigan. Michigan was
the first state to recognize the importance
of protecting the night sky
through the creation of Michigan
Dark Sky Preserves, a certification
that Dr. Lawless Park also holds.
In contempt of these certifications
and my boyhood memories, a problem
exists. Where the night skies of
the past used to be a playground for
stargazers, a new phenomenon has
emerged. It's called light pollution,
and it's time we shed some light -
pun intended - on this issue that
affects not only our environment,
but also our well-being.
ral cycles of many living organisms.
Nocturnal animals, like owls, bats
and fireflies, depend on the cover of
darkness to hunt, mate and navigate
their surroundings. When their habitat
is flooded with artificial light, it
throws off their internal clocks and
disturbs their natural behavior. This
disruption can have severe implications
for their survival and the delicate
balance of ecosystems.
Light pollution also poses a threat
to the health of trees, which reduce
our carbon footprint through the
process of photosynthesis. By exchanging
carbon dioxide for oxygen,
they act as natural carbon sinks,
helping to mitigate the effects of
climate change. But when trees are
exposed to excessive artificial light
at night, their internal clocks can be
tricked into delaying dormancy in
the fall and waking too soon come
spring - all of which can expose a
tree to disease and possible death.
Furthermore, excessive light
50 Parks & Recreation | APRIL 2 0 2 4 | PARK S ANDRECRE AT ION . OR G
also can disrupt the pollination
process for flora that rely on
nocturnal
pollinators,
such
as
moths and bats. These creatures
are drawn to flowers by their fragrance
and rely on the darkness of
the night to navigate. When their
habitat is flooded with artificial
light, it disrupts their foraging patterns
and hampers the pollination
process, affecting the reproduction
and genetic diversity of trees.
Solutions
By
addressing
light
pollution
through intelligent outdoor lighting
practices, we can protect the health
of trees and support their vital
role in combating climate change.
Employing fully shielded lighting,
using warm-colored lights with a
color temperature of 2700 Kelvin
or less, and implementing motion
sensors and timers can minimize
the negative impact on trees and
promote their well-being.
Light pollution is a pressing issue
that affects our environment, human
health and the delicate balance of
ecosystems. Luckily, a solution could
be as easy as turning off unnecessary
lights. As for lighting that is deemed
necessary, actively embracing intelligent
outdoor lighting practices can
save energy, protect our planet and
create spaces that foster both human
and ecological well-being.
For additional information on
light pollution, please visit Dark Sky
International at darksky.org.
Robert Parrish, M.A., is President of
Cass County (Michigan) Parks and
Recreation (rbtparrish@comcast.net).
PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT PARRISH
http://www.darksky.org

April 2024 – Parks & Recreation

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of April 2024 – Parks & Recreation

April 2024 – Parks & Recreation - 1
April 2024 – Parks & Recreation - Cover1
April 2024 – Parks & Recreation - Cover2
April 2024 – Parks & Recreation - 1
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April 2024 – Parks & Recreation - Cover3
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https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/january-2022
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