Photo: Steven Miller Photography in Tampa Bay Times

“Groveland’s work over the last three years to replace light fixtures will allow the night sky to shine clearer and brighter than it has in decades.

About 30 miles west of Orlando sits Groveland, a rural town of about 23,000 people that is seeing shipping giants like Amazon and Kroger bring jobs inside its city limits.

While the community welcomed the job growth, the lights on the warehouse rooftops were turning Groveland’s night sky into a hazy orange that made seeing stars at night challenging.

When residents and students pushed for a local ordinance protecting views of the night sky from harsh city lights in 2017, local officials were on board.

Six years later, Groveland has been recognized as the first Florida city to meet the criteria set by the international organization DarkSky to reduce the artificial brightness that drowns out the night sky.

Andrew Landis, Groveland conservation and special planning manager, spearheaded efforts to reduce light pollution in his fast-growing home city…

Steven Miller of Orlando is the southeast U.S. regional delegate for DarkSky, which is dedicated to reducing light pollution across the world. In 2020, the city of Groveland asked Miller what it would take to become the 41st city to meet DarkSky’s accreditation requirements.

Groveland’s recognition came after three years of public outreach and policy work…

About 12 volunteers now work as ‘citizen scientists’ in Groveland. The city supplies them with $150 light pollution testing devices, which resemble garage door remotes. From there, they are tasked with driving around the 54-square-mile city and pointing the machines at the clear night sky. Groveland is mostly rural and it takes about 30 minutes to get from one end to the other, Landis said…

Groveland is currently retrofitting old streetlamps with dark-sky-friendly lights, which are shielded downward with a low color temperature. City staff hope to replace every light fixture by 2027. But the night sky city ordinance applies immediately to new buildings, and explaining this to developers is sometimes tricky, Landis said.

‘Most people are receptive to it, but if they’re not, they learned quickly that we’re pretty serious,’ he said…

Groveland still has a long way to go before it reaps the rewards of the new city ordinance, Miller said. Installing new lights around the city and helping local businesses follow suit will take time and even more community outreach.

Some communities already see Groveland as a shining example of responsible city lighting.

Miller said the city of Okeechobee has reached out to him about adopting a city plan like Groveland’s ordinance.

‘I really believe that, yes, it will take off,’ Miller said. ‘I do think it’s going to take a little bit of time…'”

— Jack Prator, Tampa Bay Times

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