Charlestown Passes Dark Sky Ordinance

If you have ever hiked in a remote wilderness area, you’ve seen spectacular night skies. Surprisingly in the densely populated state of Rhode Island there is a great place to see the stars. The Frosty Drew Observatory is located just between the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge and Charlestown’s Ninigret Park. Satellite images show this area and the surrounding town as a dark spot in the very brightly lit eastern seaboard.

On Monday, June 11, the Charlestown Town Council took an important step in protecting Rhode Island’s dark sky resource by passing the Dark Sky Ordinance. The Planning Commission wrote the ordinance and has worked hard and patiently to get it passed. The ordinance requires all new outdoor government and commercial lighting to be full cut off fixtures. These are lights that are fully shielded and aimed downwards. They light up the ground, but not the sky. Existing lights are grandfathered, but when they are replaced, they will need to use the dark sky protecting fixtures.

To promote the ordinance, the Planning Commission and the Directors of Frosty Drew brought the film The City Dark to Rhode Island. Frosty Drew holds a multiple screening license to the film and will continue to show the film in other communities where lighting could potentially impact Charlestown’s dark sky. The film will also be on PBS this fall.

Frosty Drew Observatory is open every Friday night for stargazing through 16″ and 10″ telescopes. They open their dome and telescopes to the public free of charge shortly after dusk. You can connect with Frosty Drew at their Facebook page where they have great photographs of Charlestown’s beautiful skies and you can get updates on viewing conditions and celestial events.

Protecting a place in Rhode Island where you can clearly see the Milky Way will ensure that everyone will have a chance to experience the stars first hand. As much fun as hiking in remote areas may be, we are lucky to have a place so close to home.