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Private resort promises dark skies

Steve Lynn
Vail, Co Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyRed Cliff is lit-up Thursday after sunset. The developer who wants to build a private ski resort nearby is promising to try to reduce light pollution as much as possible.
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RED CLIFF ” Fred Haslee appreciates that the company that wants to build a private ski resort south of town will try to avoid light pollution and maintain the area’s dark skies.

Haslee laments that he sees bright lights shining from Vail’s Adventure Ridge ” where tubing, snow biking and other activities take place ” toward his home on winter nights, and he hopes the Ginn Development Co. will avoid using similar bright lights, he said.

Ginn has pledged to maintain the quality of the area’s night sky if it is allowed to build 1,700 homes, ski slopes and a golf course south of Minturn, Ginn officials say.

Lighting experts say the goal of maintaining the area’s dark sky is possible, but caution that Ginn would have to plan ahead and hire good lighting experts to fulfill its promise.

Red Cliff, which would be on the other side of the resort, is a great place to take photographs of stars, and resident Todd Lorson said he worries the resort could ruin that.

“I don’t know how 1,700 fixtures would not produce some light,” Lorson said.

Depending on their vantage points, residents would see some lights but they will not be as bright as Adventure Ridge, said Cliff Thompson, spokesman for Ginn.

Ginn would use state-of-the-art lighting fixtures that would focus light toward the ground and would avoid using tall light poles, Ginn officials said.

Ginn also would use computer programming in homes to limit the amount of time that light shines from them and would use some kind of treatment to lessen light shining from its buildings, said Bill Weber, senior vice president for Ginn.

These methods would keep the night sky dark and would conserve energy, Weber said.

“People come to Colorado for the environment and we want them to be able to see the stars,” Thompson said.

None of Ginn’s projects emit an “orange glow,” Weber said.

A precedent exists for the company’s sensitivity toward maintaining dark skies ” it recently hired lighting experts in the construction of its Laurelmor resort in North Carolina, he said.

The company has not yet contracted for lighting experts because it is too early in the design stage, Weber said, and Ginn has not figured out how much light its development would emit.

Developers should calculate whether they would brighten the night sky in the early stages of design, said Nancy Clanton, president of Clanton and Associates, a Boulder lighting design and engineering firm.

They need to perform calculations that could help them measure whether they would change the luminosity of a star, for example, she said.

“It’s definitely something that can be predicated ahead of time and something that can be planned for,” Clanton said.

Ginn could maintain the area’s dark sky, lighting experts said.

Clanton touted Bachelor Gulch as a “great example” of how dark skies can be preserved, she said.

Ginn would have to hire lighting experts to do the job right, said Susan Frostman, president of Dark Skies of Custer County, in southern Colorado.

Good lighting involves a myriad of considerations, from superior motion sensors to porch lights that point toward the ground to using different types of bulbs, lighting experts said.

“A lighting firm understands the difference between a providing a dark-sky fixture and a dark-sky friendly environment,” Frostman said.

Dark-sky fixtures wrap around light bulbs and focus light downward, Frostman said.

But the level of brightness depends on the quality of the fixture and height of the light. The higher the light, the more light emitted into the atmosphere, she said.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.


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