BLANCO, TX, USA – The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has officially endorsed the city of Blanco as an International Dark Sky Community (IDSC). The culmination of a grassroots effort that began in 2007, the certification validated the work of the City of Blanco, Blanco Chamber of Commerce and Night Sky Friends of Blanco County to protect the night sky above above and around the city of the ravages of light. Pollution.
“The town of Blanco has always been in love with the night sky,” said Ashley Wilson, director of conservation at IDA. “With their tireless work, coupled with building a tight-knit community and ecstatic partners, their cumulative actions have successfully celebrated and protected the night sky.”
IDA strives to protect the dark sky for present and future generations by requiring applicants to follow a rigorous application process to demonstrate strong community support for dark sky protection and document program requirements. designation specific. Blanco’s 295-page application represented a community-wide effort and provided detailed documentation of the work done by city staff and community volunteers over many years to achieve this goal.
The town of Blanco, with a population of approximately 2,100, prides itself on being the “heart and hub of the Texas Hill Country.” Founded by the Texas Rangers in 1853 and developed and supported by waves of German immigrants and many others ever since, the town and its citizens are proud of its rough and tumultuous ranching heritage and small-town vibe that persists until our days. Surrounded by beautiful oak-covered hills that ablaze with wildflowers in the spring, blessed with the wonderfully clear, spring-fed Blanco River that runs through the city, and strategically located a short drive from Austin and San Antonio , Blanco has much to be proud of, its beautiful night sky is one of them.
Beginning in 2007, volunteers began working with city staff and various organizations who shared the vision of a pristine night sky. A public awareness campaign has been launched. Using Sky Quality Meters (SQM), an active program has been put in place to measure the quality of the night sky to determine progress in combating light pollution.
In 2018, the Blanco County Night Sky Friends (BCFNS) was formed to promote night sky preservation and light pollution reduction. That same year, a comprehensive outdoor lighting ordinance was drafted and passed by Blanco City Council and the IDSC application process was launched in earnest.
Presentations on night sky preservation were given to local schools and community organizations. Night sky information kiosks have been set up on city market days, at Blanco’s Twin Sisters Heritage Dance Hall, and at Chamber of Commerce events. Competitions were held to include night sky essay contests, art contests, and a songwriting contest that resulted in a 13-song CD of original music extolling the virtues of the night sky.
A Wizard of the Night Sky costumed character was created to liven up the message to various groups. A Night Sky Friendly business recognition program has been launched to recognize local businesses for good outdoor lighting. A light bulb exchange program has also been launched to encourage residents and businesses to use outdoor light fixtures suitable for dark skies.
Outdoor lighting assessments have been conducted for several businesses and organizations, including Blanco State Park. Using GPS receivers and light-measuring tools, groups of volunteers inventoried all streetlights in the town of Blanco and, finding none that complied with the town’s outdoor lighting ordinance, city, coordination was initiated with the Pedernales Electric Co-op, the city’s electricity supplier, which resulted in a commitment to replace all streetlights in the city with IDA-approved fixtures at no cost to the town of Blanco.
In conjunction with the Hill Country Alliance and the Blanco County Court of Commissioners, a Night Sky Friendly Neighborhood program was created to encourage developers to include common sense outdoor lighting requirements in their deed restrictions. The Texas Legislature was successfully petitioned to authorize limited use of Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funds to support night sky preservation efforts in Blanco and Hays counties, funds which were then used to retrofitting exterior light fixtures at two local motels.
“It was a long process for us, but the end goal was worth it,” Blanco Mayor Rachel Lumpee said. “The city of Blanco sits on the ‘edge of darkness’, with large light-polluted cities to the east and south. We view our still-beautiful night sky as a valuable natural resource that deserves protection from light pollution. We want to protect the darkness we have and reclaim the even more beautiful night skies enjoyed by our predecessors here in the Texas Hill Country.
An IDA International Dark Sky Community (IDSC) is a legally organized city, town, municipality or other community that has demonstrated exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and the application of an ordinance on quality outdoor lighting, dark sky education and citizen support for dark skies. Dark Sky communities excel in their efforts to promote responsible lighting and dark sky management, and they set a good example for surrounding communities. In his quest to preserve the night sky, Blanco joins four nearby IDSC-designated communities in the Texas Hill Country: Fredericksburg, dripping springs, Horseshoe Bayand the Wimberley Valley. In addition, Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park (ranch unit), Enchanted Rock State Natural Areaand Milton Reimers Ranch, all a short drive from Blanco, have been designated IDA International Dark Sky Parks.
The city of Blanco has been supported throughout the certification process by many partners, including the Texas Chapter of the International Dark Sky Association and the Hill Country Alliance (HCA), a non-profit organization created to raise community awareness and support for the natural resources and heritage of the Central Texas Hill Country.
“The Hill Country Alliance is thrilled with this certification, and we send enthusiastic congratulations to the entire Blanco community on this achievement,” said Dawn Davies, HCA Night Sky Program Manager. “Our region cares deeply about the preservation of the night sky and, as a designated international dark sky community, the town of Blanco is an inspiration to us all. We look forward to continuing to support their work and awareness in the night sky.
Libbey Aly, Executive Director of the Blanco Chamber of Commerce, said: “Being designated the official international dark sky community will be a real boon to our efforts to promote night tourism in and around Blanco. Tourists come here to see our historic place, enjoy our beautiful hills, and fish and play in our spring-fed river. Now they will be more likely to stay overnight to enjoy our wonderful night sky as well. It’s a win-win for all of us.
“This was a community-wide team effort from start to finish,” said Wayne Gosnell, president of the Blanco County Friends of the Night Sky. “It is gratifying and very appropriate that this designation comes to us during the International Dark Sky Week. Congratulations to all !
About the International Dark-Sky Places Program: The International Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 as a non-regulatory, voluntary program to encourage communities, parks and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark places through effective lighting policies, environmentally friendly outdoor lighting and public education. When used indiscriminately, artificial light can disrupt ecosystems, impact human health, waste money and energy, contribute to climate change, and block our vision and connection to the universe. . Blanco, Texas now joins more than 195 locations that have demonstrated strong community support for dark sky defense and are working to protect the night from light pollution. Learn more by visiting www.darksky.org/conservation/idsp.
About the International Dark-Sky Association: The mission of the IDA is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our dark sky heritage through environmentally friendly outdoor lighting. Information about IDA and the process to become a designated IDSC is available at www.darksky.org. Information on night sky preservation specifically in Blanco County, Texas can be found at the Blanco County Friends of the Night Sky website, www.blancocountynightsky.org.
Curatorial Director, International Dark-Sky Association
Mr. Wayne Gosnell
1374 River Run
Blanco, Texas 78606
Mayor Rachel Lumpee
Blanco, Texas 78606