FREDERICKSBURG, Texas - From space, the city centers of South Texas glow.
"Nearly 80 percent of the United States can no longer see the Milky Way,” Ken Kattner, an amateur astronomer and president of International Dark-Sky Association, said.
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Light pollution remains an ever-radiating problem for not only the United States, but many parts of the world.
"Let’s do something about it now before it gets worse,” Kattner said.
Also a Houston attorney, Kattner owns an observatory in Fredericksburg. Like several other towns in the Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg is looking to cut down on light pollution. But the city wants to take it a step further by becoming an International Dark-Sky community.
"It would make us the third in the state of Texas, the 14th in the United States and 19th in the world,” said Marion Wiggins, assistant to the Fredericksburg’s city manager.
Dripping Springs and Horseshoe Bay are the only other Texas cities with the designation. Nearby Enchanted Rock is one of several state parks labeled as a Dark-Sky Park. It would be a big accomplishment, by most accounts.
"It’s good for our environment. It’s good for tourism,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins believes the starry night sky will draw in big-city tourists from places like San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. The result, she hopes, is shiny, new revenue.
“We’re going have people staying overnight in our hotels, eating at our restaurants, paying our hotel occupancy tax, our sales taxes, so it’s a good revenue boost,” Wiggins said.
Fredericksburg, which sits just outside the influence of the bright lights of San Antonio and Austin, has to meet several requirements to achieve the designation. One such step includes taking scientific measurements of the light in the night sky. Kattner stepped in to help the city install a light sensor above its Lady Bird Golf Course.
"Each night, it'll take a reading every 10 to 15 minutes,” Kattner said.
Other steps involve installing LED lights, citywide, that face downward. Many of the city’s street lights have been updated, while businesses and residents are only required to make the change if new lights are being installed. According to Wiggins, a small number of residents have voiced concerns.
"It's not expensive, any more expensive than traditional lighting, it's just focusing the light downward instead of upward,” explained Wiggins.
Fredericksburg hopes to submit its application in November, while other Hill Country towns are looking to follow suit.
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