It’s not a municipality of vampires, at least we don’t think so, but a lone town in North Texas is clinging to the darkness.
“It’s kind of a dark area, not a lot of development, not yet,” says Gordon Meredith, North Texas regional manager for the Texas chapter of the International Dark Sky Association.
Meredith is referring to Lakewood Village, a town of about 1,000 residents with 180 acres of undeveloped property. It’s the only town in North Texas designated as a Dark Sky community for its efforts toward preserving the natural night sky.
Meredith, 61, lives about 12 miles from Lakewood Village and grew up in Denton.
“When I was a child, the lights of Dallas were just a little smudge way off on the horizon, and then by the time when I was in high school you could see the light film of Dallas through the trees of Denton,” he recalls. “Now, we’re, like, all inside of Dallas’ light zone and we’ve lost our connection to the night sky here in North Central Texas.”
With most Dark Sky designations in Texas located in the Hill Country, Meredith says it was exciting that a North Central Texas town became a Dark Sky community last year. He describes Lakewood Village as a small community “out on a peninsula in Lake Lewisville.” Little Elm is nearby and “you can definitely see the lights of Denton across the main body of Lake Lewisville as well as Corinth and Lake Dallas.”
However, the town has “protected themselves from light pollution,” he says, by doing things like working with their electric provider and replacing vintage, high-pressure sodium lights with recessed lighting that produces a more yellowish light with less glare.
Former Lakewood Village City Councilman Ed Reed, who led the quest to obtain the town’s Dark Sky designation, wrote in an email that Lakewood Village is “proud to stand apart from typical suburban municipalities.” Reed explained that the entirely residential community has no light pollution within its limits caused by commercial or retail establishments, strip-centers, small business or big-box stores.
“With more than one-third of the town being undeveloped and heavily wooded, Lakewood Village leadership recognized the opportunity to get ahead of future development and establish strict outdoor lighting standards to preserve the dark sky and water views it enjoys currently,” he wrote, adding that townspeople also “enjoy the natural feel of [the] town and, as a result, we have not experienced any significant pushback from residents.”
According to darksky.org, “the natural night sky is becoming unknown to the newest generation.” It also states that “Van Gogh painted his famous 'Starry Night' in Saint Rémy, France, in 1889. Now, the Milky Way can no longer be seen from there.”
Although Meredith, who loaned Lakewood Village a sky quality meter before the town purchased their own, doesn’t claim to be a stargazer, he says a lot of association's members are astronomers.
“I come more at this from the policy side of things,” he says. “I always like looking, this time of year, at the Andromeda galaxy. It is the farthest thing you can see with the naked eye.”
That galaxy is located more than 2 million light-years away.
“To see that little, hazy patch in the sky and realize that the light left that galaxy over 2 million years ago, and traveling at the speed of light, it finally reached my eyes,” Meredith says.
Still, Meredith says each year it gets increasingly difficult to see the galaxy from Denton.
“The amount of light is getting more and more everywhere in the metroplex,” he says.