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Light pollution prompts call for improvement

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners Monday night heard a request for a light control ordinance from Mark Steven Williams of Elizabeth, an astronomer who’s concerned that improper outdoor lighting is destroying the dark night sky.
An immediate goal is to have proper lighting installed at the sports fields under construction at South Harrison Park near Elizabeth.
J.R. Eckart, chair of the commissioners, explained that any light control ordinance would need to first be approved by the county plan commission. And Williams said he understands that it is too late for an ordinance to apply to the park situation. But he hopes to obtain lighting design information so that cost comparisons can be made between the current plan and a shielded lighting system that does not waste energy escaping upward and creating a glow in the night sky.
Harrison County Community Foundation director Steve Gilliland, who attended a recent meeting of people concerned about excessive light, said the lights at the ball fields in South Harrison Park will be used about 50 hours a year, so detriment to the environment and the cost would have to be compared with that consideration.
Williams and others say that proper, shielded lighting can be more expensive to install but it’s cost-effective in the long run because it saves energy. No dollar figures are available because the group has not been able to see a copy of the design plans.
Williams said he has been told the lighting currently planned for the South Harrison Park ball fields would cost about $48,000; the non-polluting lighting system would cost about $51,000. ‘It would make up those costs in two or three years operation,’ Williams said.
In a letter to Williams, Kevin Fleming, chair of the Indiana Council on Outdoor Lighting Education, said:
‘Well-designed sports lighting requires a balance between providing sufficient illumination of the playing field, minimizing illumination scattering off the field, and minimizing glare not only off the field but on the field as well, so as not to interfere with play.
‘The impact of high-intensity athletic field lighting is also quite noticeable with respect to the artificial sky glow it produces and the significant intrusion into the surrounding ecosystem.’
More details may be provided and discussed at a meeting at the Elizabeth Civic Center, which begins at 6 p.m. on Nov. 29.