Twenty-five years ago, Dorothy Arnold purchased 12 acres in northern Comal/southern Hays counties near Wimberley and opened Dot’s Hipcamp, 5080 Purgatory Rd., New Braunfels, to help pay expenses by allowing campers and RVers to rent spaces on her property.
The night skies were gorgeous, she said, a popular attraction for her many guests who book stays at her place on hipcamp.com.
“We had nothing,” said Arnold, a Dallas native. “No electricity, water, septic or road. We started from scratch. It was the darkest sky I’d ever seen.”
Over the years, though, she’s kept her eye on a “halo on the horizon” that’s growing brighter, dimming Hipcamp’s celestial views as development spreads southward from Austin along the I-35 corridor, lighting up everything in its wake.
Arnold is fighting back.
Saturday, she hosted a meeting of Comal County Friends of the Night Sky, an organization whose goal is to eradicate “light pollution” by promoting available technologies for efficient, non-intrusive lighting, including on billboards.
They were joined by another group with a vested interest in stars, the New Braunfels Astronomy Club.
Arnold was presented with a “Night Sky Friendly Business” certificate for her efforts. She joins dozens of Comal County residents working diligently to convince elected officials, developers businesses and even individual residents to adopt, apply, observe and enforce outdoor lighting ordinances and resolutions that preserve the night sky.
Their motto is “one light at a time.”
There also are Dark Skies groups in nearby Hays, Kendall and Blanco counties.
Comal’s nonprofit group formed in 2020 after county commissioners passed a Night Sky resolution calling 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.”
Comal County Friends of the Night Sky have other events planned over the next several months, said President Larry Wells, who remembers what Canyon Lake views were like nine years ago, when he could stand outside his house in Hancock Oaks and still see the Milky Way galaxy.
He said the group is actively supporting the City of Spring Branch, which applied to become a recognized International Dark Sky Association (IDA) Community at a city council meeting on March 14.
Friends of the Night Sky also are helping the City of Bulverde upgrade its outdoor lighting ordinance and to work towards its own IDA designation.
On Saturday, they will set up tables at both the Sattler Ace Hardware Barbecue from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and at the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country’s Dinosaur Day event from noon to 4 p.m.
In the evening, members of the New Braunfels Astronomy Club will discuss the importance of dark skies at a 7:30 p.m. Star Party at Tye Preston Memorial Library.
At 5 p.m. May 20, Friends of the Night Sky return to Arnold’s property for a Land & Sky Celebration benefiting the Comal County Conservation Alliance and Comal Friends of the Night Sky.
To purchase tickets, click here.
The public is invited to attend monthly meetings scheduled for the last Thursday of each month. On March 30, the group will meet at 1 p.m. at Italian Garden, 18220 FM 306, Canyon Lake.
To learn more about how to become Dark Sky-friendly, click here.