Forest Preserve District of DuPage County works to limit light pollution

Dimly lit building on forest preserve site
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The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is stepping up its efforts to limit light pollution.

At its latest meeting, the forest preserve district board resolved to continue its support of the guidelines put forth by DarkSky International, a nonprofit leading the charge against light pollution.

Light pollution is explained as “unwanted or excessive artificial light.” Studies show it can have a negative effect on wildlife and human health, while also contributing to climate change.

Thoughtful about use of outdoor light

The forest preserve district tries to be thoughtful about its use of light. According to a press release from the district, each time it has new lighting needs at a site, it considers DarkSky International’s five principles for outdoor lighting: whether it is useful, targeted, low level, controlled, and warm colored.

This approach limits light to only where it is absolutely needed, and only in the necessary amount. Currently just 0.4% of the district’s more than 26,000 acres of land are impacted by lighting. But they want to do more.

“We’re regrouping to see where we can take things even further,” said Jason Berger, facilities manager at the Forest Preserve District in a press release. “We’re conducting a comprehensive exterior lighting audit to eliminate any unnecessary lighting altogether and to identify additional opportunities for improvements,” he said.

Lighting upgrades a priority for the district

In its current budget year, the district has prioritized lighting upgrades and will continue to make energy-efficient and environmentally conscious outdoor lighting one of its top considerations when looking at new capital projects.

“Artificial outdoor light can disrupt the natural environment for many species. This includes nocturnal animals that use darkness as cover while hunting, amphibians who call at night as part of their breeding rituals, and migrating birds that navigate by moonlight and starlight,” said Erik Neidy, director of Natural Resources in the news release. “Not to mention that many insects are drawn to artificial light, which can give an unfair advantage to hungry predators and cause challenges for insects like lightning bugs that use light to attract mates,” he added.

The district says it is also mindful of making safety a priority, and works with law enforcement for best practices on light placement, timing tools, and other technologies.

Several sites slated for more energy efficient lighting

A number of sites run by the forest preserve district are either slotted for lighting upgrades, or have already received them. Those include spots like Fullersburg Woods in Oak Brook, Greene Valley in Naperville, Danada in Wheaton, Hidden Lake in Downers Grove,  and the family campground area at Blackwell in  Warrenville.

The lighting upgrades ensure that fixtures in use on site are both energy-efficient and  DarkSky compliant.

Dark skies on display at Astronomy Night event

The forest preserve district will hold a special salute to dark skies in the form of an astronomy event at Greene Valley on Oct. 7. The “Astronomy Night” will be hosted by the Naperville Astronomical Association, who will provide telescopes for the public to scope out the night sky in all its glory. The event will run from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Registration can be done online. Admission will be $10 per car.

Photo courtesy: Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

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