Projects

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 that change.

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.

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.
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 2014, Dark Skies shielded the lights at Norup Gas Company north of Westcliffe.
Dark Skies shielded the lights at Oak Disposal Services north of Westcliffe.

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.