Dark sky group seeks funds for public outreach initiative

The North Fork Dark Sky Coalition is looking for new ways to educate residents about how to prevent light pollution.

The coalition requested funds from Southold Town to send town residents an informative postcard at Tuesday’s Town Board work session. The group has already come up with half the money needed to fund the $8,000 initiative.

The postcard would offer condensed information about light pollution, suggest ways for homeowners to take preventative action and promote resources such as the coalition’s website, launched earlier this year. 

Marina DeLuca and Mary Eisenstein of the Dark Skies Initiative suggested many Southold residents, especially those who moved to town recently, might not be aware of town code. The postcard, they argued, would fill that gap. 

“I’ve seen in the past five years, while we have [town code], there are areas where it’s slipping because people don’t know,” Ms. DeLuca said. “I want to be able to come back here in 15 years and have it be the same place that I remember with … those characteristics of seeing the stars, of being able to go to the beach at night and see a meteor shower.” 

She said the coalition has hosted events in the past where participants who had come because they were interested in learning about space, left “really excited and passionate” about preventing light pollution. Many weren’t aware that town code enforced measures to protect local skies.

The coalition hopes the postcards will help their message reach a larger audience. “We felt that the Town Board should have a hand in that, since we are trying to promote the code that’s already in place,” Ms. DeLuca told The Suffolk Times. 

Town Board members seemed reluctant to embrace the plan, although they emphasized that they support the coalition’s work.

Councilman Jim Dinizio said “spending that kind of money on education would be a Pandora’s box.” 

Councilwoman Louisa Evans responded that she’s not against spending the money on education, but “what I’m having difficulty with is when you partner with a coalition, there are many coalitions in town for very good causes and many of them do try to support informing people what the law is. I think once we open that, where does it stop?” 

Councilwoman Sarah Nappa suggested finding other ways to get the word out, such as through social media, or perhaps by leaving the informational cards in public areas. Ms. Evans also suggested potentially placing an ad with information on the town lighting code.

Ms. DeLuca said she’s “respectfully disappointed” in the town’s response, although she understands “their perspective and [thinks] they made a fair point.” 

“But I’m 23 years old and I want to hope that government is going to make every effort to try and do what’s best for people,” she said. “They offered us other avenues, which I am hopeful that we’ll be able to take, but I think it’s important to value education and … trying to do what, in my opinion, would be in the best interest of the community.” 

The coalition will reassess their options at their next meeting. Ms. DeLuca said they might “go back to the drawing board” to see what their next steps should be.