Successful Dark Skies Projects
Since Inception of Dark Skies, Inc.
In 1999, shortly after the inception of Dark Skies on March 5 of
that year, Smokey Jack, President, negotiated an agreement with the West Custer
County Hospital District to have shielded lights installed in their parking lot
and on the building. Sign illumination that was dark sky friendly was also
included. Fifteen years later, these fixtures are still in use.
This lighting project was the
first in a long process to change the mindsets of these old western communities
from one of “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do.” to “How can we protect our
beautiful Wet Mountain Valley’s rural charm from being lost to big-city
problems like light pollution?” This and the following 10 projects illustrate
In 2001, Dark
Skies ran a successful community fund drive to finance the $15,500 replacement cost
of the 44 town-owned street lights of Westcliffe. In 2014, the town trustees
decided to install a test LED fixture with the goal of reducing energy
consumption by converting all the town-owned street lights. This decision,
which came without any prompting from Dark Skies, illustrates the change in
mindset that Dark Skies has worked towards over the last 15 years.
In 2004, Dark
Skies funded the replacement of the parking lot lights and wall packs at the
Custer County School District facility.
In 2005, we
funded the replacement of glaring street light fixtures with flat-lens,
non-glaring units and the placement of shields on other fixtures used at the
Round Mountain Water and Sanitation
District treatment plant just north of downtown Westcliffe.
In 2009, a
dollar discount store constructed a building in Silver Cliff with glaring wall
packs and roof mounted fixtures that created extreme light trespass onto
Highway 96 and onto neighborhoods for many blocks. An outpouring of complaints
to the store and the Tribune’s Letters to
the Editor lead to the company management decision to turn off some of the
lights when closed to business and to allow Dark Skies to install shielding on
the wall packs — before and after photos below.
In 2009 and 2010, Dark Skies worked with the Custer County Commissioners to replace the Custer
County Courthouse exterior lighting with dark sky friendly fixtures.
The top image is of the front of the Custer County Courthouse
from Sixth Street/Highway 69 where the glaring wall packs used to blind passing
drivers. The bottom image is the back of the courthouse where glaring wall
packs were replaced (the shielded street lights in the parking lot are not
In 2011 and 2012, using donations made through the annual Wet Mountain Valley Community Foundation Spirit Campaign and other
donations (click the Donations button to the left for more information), we worked with the Westcliffe Supermarket to change the outside wall
pack lights to cutoff fixtures that will shield the lighting from the
neighborhood and The Bluff Park.
In 2011 and 2012, Dark Skies worked with the Sangre de Cristo Electric Coop to change out their wall packs at their shop and service area on Highway 69, just south of Westcliffe. These fixtures caused considerable glare. Test LED bulbs were installed in their yard lights.
In 2013, Dark
Skies received an agreement from the Custer County Commissioners to change out wall
packs and add to the overhead lights with shielded fixtures at the Custer County
Shops on the north edge of Westcliffe.
In 2013, Dark
Skies shielded the lights at the Westcliffe Fire Station.
In 2013, Dark Skies shield a glaring wall pack on the back of the Shell gas station.
In 2014, Dark Skies shielded the lights at Norup Gas Company north of Westcliffe.
In 2014, Dark Skies shielded the lights at Oak Disposal Services north of Westcliffe.
The lights were replaced with the new LED units in October, 2015.
The annual Dark Skies art contest was held in November, 2015.
2016 Annual Report — the recertification for the IDA Dark Sky Community Designation details far more activities. To read about our incredible year following the March, 2015, certification, clicking here.
Your financial support needed— Since Inception, projects such as those just described are financed through donations solicited from concerned citizens with an interest in preserving the dark-sky heritage,
view of the starry night sky, and protection of wildlife of the Wet Mountain
Valley. The funds received by Dark Skies are used not only for commercial and
governmental projects, but also for individual requests to help in providing
dark sky lighting solutions for personal residences and ranches. Dozens of such
solutions have been provided since our inception, including offering free
shields for yard lights. A typical solution below was a Westcliffe glaring yard
light that disturbed many neighbors. Fortunately, the owner was receptive to
having this and another rear facing light replaced. To help support our efforts, please click the Donatons button on the left set of buttons.