Advocate wants to keep Douglas in the dark |

Advocate wants to keep Douglas in the dark

by Christy Chalmers

With the overhead lights dimmed so her audience could better see the proof she presented, International Dark-Sky Association member Maggie Tracey made her case Thursday for less obtrusive exterior illumination.

Tracey showed the Douglas County Commission a series of slides illustrating light pollution – electric light that obstructs the natural night light – as well as “good” lights that are trained on a specific area and don’t spill harshly onto neighboring properties.

She asked the commissioners to consider a county ordinance on outdoor lights that would protect Douglas residents’ view of the night sky, which she said is already threatened by the obtrusive lighting in Reno and Carson City.

“It doesn’t take a lot to see the difference as we’re driving down Highway 395,” said Tracey, who lives in Genoa. “You don’t realize that it’s happening. It creeps up on you.”

The International Dark-Sky Association is promoting less-obtrusive lighting. The group encourages people to equip their houses with low-wattage lights and use shields that focus the glare on the area that actually needs to be lit.

Tracy said the county ordinances governing businesses effectively limit light pollution, but the residential ordinances could use some work. The county commissioners agreed and suggested the planning commission, which reviews land use issues, should take a look at the matter.

Tracey said after the meeting the commission’s reaction reflects the community’s reaction.

“It’s unbelievable. People all over are noticing it,” she said. “It’s an issue with everyone.”

She said residents from around Douglas County have called to offer their support and agreement for the Dark-Sky efforts. She has been making her presentation around the area and says neighboring Lyon County leaders have asked for advice as they prepare to revamp their rules.

Tracey got involved with the International Dark-Sky Association after noticing on her early-morning walks around Genoa that the night sky was getting dimmer. She has personally asked people to turn off or tone down their lights, and says she’s only had one indignant response.

“Most people say they had no idea, and they’re very willing to dim the lights or make adjustments,” she said. “We’re not asking you to turn your lights off. We’re asking you to keep them from going on your neighbor’s property.”

Details: More information on the International Dark-Sky Association is available on the Internet at or by calling Tracey at 782-3397.