Catch Some Falling Stars with Comal County Friends of the Night Sky
Six years ago Larry Wells could stand outside his house in Hancock Oaks at night and count the lights on the south side of Canyon Lake.
Now there are so many bright lights it’s not worth the effort — to count or try to enjoy starlit nights.
With Comal County in the crosshairs of rapid growth along the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio, Wells and other Canyon Lake residents have joined forces with a grassroots movement sweeping Central Texas whose goal is stopping “light pollution” before it erases stars from the night sky.
The newly formed Comal County Friends of the Night Sky will set up a table at 6 p.m. tonight at Brookshire Brothers, 18275 FM 306, “Party on the Patio” featuring music, a classic car show and a ribeye dinner. Members include Betty Buckley, Larry Wells, Eric Erickson, Steve Ellison. Tracy Byrne, Becky Virtue, and Amy Jackson.
“We will be located in the plaza in front of the store entrance, ready to tell you about why we are so excited about catching falling stars,” Wells said. “See how we can help you reduce light pollution and increase security at the same time.”
A $20 membership includes a window “cling” or clear plastic sticker. Night Sky yard signs will be on sale for $30. Stickers sell for $10. A children’s book written by Hill Country Alliance (HCA) team consultant Amy Jackson is available for purchase with a $10 minimum donation.
“One of our sayings is, ‘one light at a time,’ and we’ve turned out some lights,” Wells said.
With the help of HCA, Comal County’s night skies movement kicked off in December 2018 after Commissioners Court passed a Night Sky resolution encouraging residents, businesses and developers to start paying attention to the lights they shine at night.
The resolution calls for “outdoor lighting fixture and practices that follow up-to-date guidelines and use available technologies for efficient, non-intrusive lighting and will endeavor to educate and encourage landowners, businesses, residential neighborhoods, and public entities to join in this commitment to reduce energy consumption, save money, reduce light trespass and preserve our starry night skies.”
But, like many things in unincorporated Comal County, the resolution isn’t enforceable.
Michelle Molina, who lives in the City of Bulverde, where the laws are, said she’s updating its Dark Sky Ordinance and No New Billboards Ordinance so that lights on the large signs don’t shine into the night sky.
“The lights do have a severe impact on the amount of light pollution in our night sky,” she said. “People should know they do have a choice in the direction the lights face and the Kelvin temperature (2,700 to 3,000 kilowatts) needed for a billboard to be dark-sky compliant. ‘Their’ billboard will have negative effects on the health of the people who live around it and on the wildlife and bug life. They are adding to the light pollution of Texas and damaging our night-sky heritage.”
Closer to home, in Canyon Lake, Wells said residents need to remind themselves of one of the reasons they don’t see many fireflies at night — the insects can’t see each other.
He is working closely with Blanco County’s Friends of the Night Sky, which describes itself as sitting on the leading edge of development in Central Texas.
“Austin is coming from the east and San Antonio from the south,” the group says on its website. “We can still see the stars, for now, but the day is coming when that no longer may be the case. Unless we act. This is why we’re here…development is inevitable, but development with an eye on the heavens can give us all good lives enriched even further by being able to look up and see the stars.”
Hill County Alliance is a little more blunt.
“Outdoor lighting has carelessly and often unintentionally increased light pollution,” it says on its website. “The trend goes hand-in-hand with population growth and land fragmentation. The undesirable effects of light pollution — glare, light trespass, light clutter and sky glow — make our region less attractive to visitors who play an important role in many local economies.”
Wells said modern and appropriately directed fixtures will help keep lights on individual property and eliminate energy waste. There are many certified fixtures available online.
For more information and to sign up for a newsletter, visit Comal County Friends of the Night Sky.
Thank you so much for a very informative article. As we all know, this is becoming a problem out here at Canyon Lake, and as long time residents, we want to keep our beautiful skies the way nature intended them to be! Be! Let’s educate and inform as much as we can so that all the newcomers coming in are aware of our passion and love for our Hill Country and our night skies! This is a great group to join and help the community foster this type of commitment to keeping our skies beautiful.
Thank you Stephanie for this great article. When you wrote it we had about 35 people join our Facebook group, and 20 on our email list. Today 09/29/2020 we have 240 on Facebook and 50+ on our email list. More and more people are interested in bringing back the stars and the ability to see the Milky Way