Light pollution controls make Torrey the first ‘dark sky’ town in Utah

Town earns designation as International Dark Sky Community

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) A photo taken of 100 North in Torrey, Oct. 18, 2017 shows the light output and color of three newly installed LED lights in comparison to the two remaining sodium vapor lights. Garkane Energy Cooperative replaced the remaining sodium vapor lights on 100 North with new lights, using spectra at 3000 Kelvin or less, that direct light away from the sky.

With new streetlights, bulb shields and a lighting ordinance, Torrey recently became the first town in Utah — and the 18th in the world — to be recognized as an International Dark Sky Community.

Torrey also is the first national park gateway town to earn the designation, according to the International Dark Sky Association.

“Together, we take a major step forward in achieving an important goal of the International Dark Sky Places Program to join parks and neighboring communities in dedication to preserving their shared night skies,” said IDA Executive Director J. Scott Feierabend. “Torrey has proven its commitment to protecting this resource for the benefit of both its residents and national park visitors.”

The association identified Capitol Reef National Park as a Dark Sky Park in 2015. The Torrey Town Council later implemented an outdoor lighting ordinance, which requires street and building lighting to be shielded and directed toward the ground.

(Scott T. Smith | courtesy) The Milky Way and stars in dark sky above Highway 24 (Main Street) in Torrey, illuminated by a dark sky friendly LED light.

“While those who came before us left us our dark night skies to love, now we leave a legacy to generations of future residents of this special place we proudly call home,” Torrey Mayor Scott Chestnut said in a news statement. “We’ve often been accused of being ‘in the dark,’ but now we’re being honored for it.”

Torrey residents and organizations raised about $20,000 last year to replace bulbs in streetlights and in outdoor lights at some prominent businesses.

A 2016 Missouri State University study reviewed national park visitor surveys and spending and found that up to $2.5 billion in tourism spending at parks on the Colorado Plateau could be gained or lost with dark skies.

Other towns in and around southern Utah have joined the dark sky movement; Springdale, Boulder, Moab, Kanab and the border town of Page, Ariz., are considering or have passed light-curbing ordinances.