The falling of stars 

Is light pollution blotting out Whistler's spectacular night sky?

click to flip through (3) PHOTO BY DAVID MCCOLM

Page 3 of 11

Both Creekside and the Village have grown by leaps and bounds as well with new hotels and buildings. There's a tube park that's lit up at night and an Olympic sliding track that gets most of its use in the evenings.

There's a new transit station at Nesters that's been widely criticized for excessive light. Further north there's another new neighbourhood, Rainbow, nestled between Alpine and Emerald.

Many of our village trees are now decked top to bottom with Christmas lights through the winter with hundreds of thousands more bulbs than before in the build-up to the 2010 Olympic Games — a level of illumination made possible by energy efficient LED technology that makes colourful lighting both cheap and durable. It's beautiful, as is the glowing Inuksuk at the corner of Village Gate and the Gateway Loop, the glowing bridge and gazebo — but there's also no question that all this electrical magic blots out the natural glamour of our night sky.

It's been argued before that as a resort founded on the natural beauty of its mountains, forests and lakes — where the view is a commodity people are willing to pay millions for — the night sky has value. Given that more than half the people in the world live in urbanized areas — and over 80 per cent of Canadians — a lot of people who come to Whistler may have never seen the stars as they were meant to be seen. Sadly, if they don't leave the village in search of darker places they won't see many stars here either.

People care, and the municipality is listening

The level of development in the run-up to the 2010 Games was unprecedented, whether it was new infrastructure that would be used in the Games themselves or other projects that the municipality or developers pushed ahead to have ready for the big event.

One of those projects was the construction of the new transit station at Nesters. In the beginning the project was controversial because a small area of wetland had to be filled in to build the tarmac. These days, however, the controversy is over light pollution, with angry residents from Nicklaus North, Spruce Grove and White Gold writing into Pique and the municipality to complain about the omnipresent, dawn 'til dusk glow of the yard. While a lot of the lighting is no doubt necessary — the transit system runs 5 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily and some employees work around the clock cleaning and maintaining the buses — some have argued that the lighting is excessive.

Residents, with help from the municipality, successfully lobbied BC Transit, Whistler's provincial partner in the transit station, to address the impact of the lights. BC Transit recently agreed to install shielding on fixtures to direct the lighting downward at a cost of $200 per light fixture. Only time will tell if it's enough to placate local residents.


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