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Grant will help reduce light pollution at Turner Farm Park Observatory

Turner Farm Park Observatory in Great Falls (via Fairfax County)

A project to reduce light pollution at Turner Farm Park Observatory will soon kick off.

The project, funded by the Mastenbrook Volunteer Matching Fund Grant Program, will provide $7,515 to retrofit 26 light bollards to replace current fixtures with LED lights.

“The retrofit project will position Turner Farm Park to apply for designation as one of seven Urban Night Sky places by the International Dark Sky Association,” the Fairfax County Park Authority said last week.

The Analemma Society, which conducts astronomy and science education programs for more than a decade at the observatory, will pitch in a little over $5,100 toward the retrofit.

When applying for the grant, representatives of the Analemma Society explained that the retrofit is the “last piece” needed to meet the criteria for an Urban Night Sky Place, a label awarded to parks, open space or observational sites near an urban environment that “actively promote an authentic nighttime experience in the midst of significant artificial light.”

The park began the application process to obtain the designation over two years ago.

“Light pollution is a major environmental problem,” the grant application said. “This project aims to reduce light pollution by creating demonstration lights showing proper dark sky lighting design to help educate the public on this. In doing so it also improves the lighting at the observatory to provide better views of the night sky for participants in our astronomy outreach programs.”

The park is located at 925 Springvale Road in Great Falls.

The grant was officially approved by the park authority’s board of directors on May 31.

The board also approved roughly $2,400 for improvements at Lewinsville Park in McLean. It will fund the installation of 230 linear feet of black privacy slats on the existing pickleball courts to create a windscreen for players.

The Mastenbrook grant program supports public-private ventures. Grant amounts range from a few hundred dollars up to $20,000.

The county is in the midst of changing light regulations around the observatory. The draft policy aims to amend zoning standards for outdoor lighting within a half-mile of the observatory.