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Julian Joins Borrego As A Dark Sky Community

 

Last updated 11/20/2020 at 11:57am



The County of San Diego has adopted new rural lighting standards that will help preserve night skies free from light pollution and allow Julian to join Borrego Springs as a recognized International Dark Sky Community.

The Borrego Sun reported last month on a four-year effort by a dedicated group of amateur astronomers to preserve the spectacular night sky that draws many visitors to the nearby mountain community.

While Borrego Springs and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park already have dark sky designations, the new “Zone C” regulations will help preserve the night sky as future development occurs.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved the new regulations at their Oct. 28 meeting. This was an important step that will now pave the way for Julian to also earn the International Dark Sky designation, hopefully by the end of the year.

The final vote to confirm adoption of the new lighting standards will be on Nov. 18, but is generally considered a routine vote after the initial unanimous support of Supervisors.

One of the most excited about the approval was Doug Sollosy, a Julian resident who recognizes the value of a place where people can come to see the wonders of the universe in a clear, dark sky that is not compromised by light pollution.

With strong community support, Sollosy and his group worked with the county to develop the new lighting standards.

The new lighting regulations were an important element required to gain the dark sky designation.

Both Borrego Springs and Julian enjoy dark skies that allow residents and visitors to see many of the wonders of the heavens like a brilliant Milky Way, a passing comet, or a spectacular meteor shower.

Light pollution in urban areas seriously hamper night sky viewing and Sollosy feels strongly about preserving this natural treasure.

He became a Julian resident three years ago and it was the clear night skies that attracted him to become a full-time resident.

“There are lots of people who have never seen a dark sky and have no idea of what it’s like. There are some areas of the world where there is essentially no night because of light pollution,” Sollosy said.

Light pollution can rob people of seeing the beauty of the night sky but can also negatively impact wildlife by disrupting their sleep cycles.

Both the Borrego Springs Sponsor Group, an advisory body to the County, and The Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association have supported and assisted Sollosy with the Julian effort.

Sollosy said the hardest part of gaining the dark sky designation is changing county lighting regulations to create standards to preserve darkness while providing necessary lighting.

“The biggest issue is the color of lights, but also awareness and we find that most people are happy to learn how to be more efficient with lighting to preserve the night sky,” Sollosy said.

He cites a few examples, such as using motion lights instead of constant illumination, or security lighting that is more diffused and effective, and store lights that go off once a business closes.

“We are not asking people to make changes immediately, but as lighting is replaced or there is construction the new, more efficient lightings standards will apply,” Sollosy said.

If all goes well, the new lighting regulations should be adopted by the end of the year.

“The county planning folks have been very helpful and cooperative in this effort,” Sollosy said.

The International Dark Sky Association meets twice a year to review applications and decide if the right conditions are in place to confer the dark sky designation. Approval of the new lighting regulations will be a big factor in Julian getting the coveted designation.

The Julian community is also behind the dark sky designation.

Robin Boland is the manager of the Julian Visitor Center sees the designation as a positive for the community.

“We get lots of calls from out of the area during the summer about places to go around here to see the night sky and the Milky Way,” she said. “Julian is famous for apple pie, but this would also be one more reason to love this area and come to visit.”

Local Realtors, businesses, the Volcan Mountain Foundation, Julian Historical Society all support the effort and the Santa Ysabel Nature Center has even installed a dark sky exhibit for visitors.

Area wildlife groups, such as the Julian Wolf Center support efforts to reduce light pollution because of the negative impact it has on wildlife by altering sleep cycles if too severe.

Sollosy said there is a group of 40 to 50 local astronomers involved in the dark sky effort through The Julian Dark Sky Network (juliandarkskynetwork.com) that he founded several years ago.

The group hosts star parties several times a year, but now because of COVID-19 has shifted to virtual star parties for the time being.

One of their biggest events is the annual Julian Wonderfest in August that attracts over 1,000 people and includes an evening a star party.

Sollosy said nothing is yet planned, but “I am certain we will celebrate when we receive the dark sky designation. I lot of people are motivated and excited.”

The designation as a dark sky community with be quite an accomplishment, not to mention a valuable county attraction.

“We are only an hour away from a major city and that’s unusual. This will be a real asset for the people of San Diego,” Sollosy said.

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