Starry night

Jon Heddleston, now the pastor of Reynolds Memorial Baptist Church, tells the story of when he was a teacher at Wakefield Country Day School.  There were several students from other countries at the school, and each year, as the students prepared to finish their classes and return home, he would ask them what they would remember most about Rappahannock County.  One answer in particular greatly surprised him.

A Japanese student responded, “Stars.”

The young man told Jon that he had never seen stars before.  He had read about them, and knew of them, but thought they were largely invisible.  He was stunned to see so many when he stepped outside his foster home and looked up into the sky.

This story would be music to Rick Kohler’s ears.  Rick is the president of the Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection.  Over the last several months, he has led an RLEP effort to champion a “Dark Skies Initiative”.

RLEP makes the point that dark skies at night are natural, beautiful, inspiring, and important to the Rappahannock heritage of scenic beauty.

He believes that they are also good for business.  People choose Rappahannock as a tourist destination for its natural beauty, including its night skies.

RLEP’s plan is simple — encourage people to place shields on all bright lights so that they will direct light down, where it is needed, not up, where it isn’t.  RLEP is offering to help defray the cost of doing so — up to $20 or 75 percent of the shield cost.  The organization has an agreement with the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative to replace unshielded pole lights for a modest fee.

The idea is catching fire slowly.  Many residents are bothered by any regulations that would tell them when or how they can turn on lights.  But as the simplicity of RLEP’s proposal sinks in, the concept has become more accepted.

And it does seem that the skies are a little darker.

Except when you look in the direction of Culpeper.

You can learn more at http://rlep.org/.

Addendum

Per Rick Kohler, President of the RLEP:

“There will be a forum on Dark Skies at The Theatre in Washington VA, Friday, April 22, at 7:00pm.

Speakers are Laura Greenleaf of International Dark Skies Association and Prof. Paul Bogard, author of “The End of Night”, a fascinating book.  Prof. Bogard’s portion will include a power point with terrific photos of what can be accomplished with a Dark Skies program.

Learn about the Whys, Hows, Wheres and Methods of achieving Star filled nights while maintaining our ability to adequately see.  This forum is presented by Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection ( www.RLEP.org ) and is FREE to the public.  All are welcome.”

by Jim Blubaugh, Washington VA