Milky Way photoastronomy ©Michael Shainblum

DarkSky West Marin, formerly DarkSky Point Reyes, announces plans to file an application to DarkSky International for its coveted DarkSky Community designation. Our goal is for the application to include Bolinas, Dillon Beach, Forrest Knolls, Inverness, Inverness Park, Lagunitas, Marshall, Muir Beach, Nicasio, Oceana Marin, Olema, Point Reyes, Seadrift, San Geronimo, Stinson Beach, Tomales, Woodacre, and the hamlets in between. This expansive Dark Sky zone will be presented to DarkSky International as a potential DarkSky Community dedicated to preserving the nighttime environment to protect our wildlife and our communities from the harmful effects of light pollution.

The Point Reyes National Seashore will apply for a separate designation as a DarkSky Park, a quicker and easier process than the larger reserve certification. While reserve status remains the ultimate goal for both DarkSky West Marin and PRNS, the simpler parallel process will include the education and outreach made possible by the dedicated DarkSky West Marin volunteer group.

The DarkSky West Marin Initiative grew after the Point Reyes Station Village Association (PRSVA), an organization dedicated to preserving the rural nature of its town, fielded an increasing number of complaints about glaring lights keeping local folks up at night. In late November 2020, a lighting committee, headed by VP Peggy Day,  performed several nighttime walkabouts to identify lighting that did not conform to the Point Reyes Community Plan which states: “Outdoor lighting shall serve the safety of ingress and egress but shall not detract from the enjoyment of the natural nightscape.”

Once a lighting inventory was created, members approached several property owners where lighting pollution occurred and began a conversation about light pollution. They also assisted local citizens in contacting the county to shield light-trespassing streetlights.  

In 2020, PRSVA treasurer, Laura Arndt introduced the concept of the DarkSky International (DSI) certification, and the idea grew. Laura talked with Dark Sky leaders in Borrego Springs and Julian, California. In February of 2021, Laura and Peggy contacted Marin County Supervisor Dennis Rodoni to see if a Dark Sky designation was feasible for Point Reyes Station, and the original DarkSky Point Reyes was formed.

After a story appeared in the Point Reyes Light, Christine Beekman, Public Information Officer at the Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS), approached the pair about a potential collaboration between the small town and the park. The three explored the concept with DSI representatives and eventually pursued a DarkSky Reserve certification that would include most of the coastal unincorporated West Marin villages and the Point Reyes National Seashore. PRSVA representatives presented the idea to the other villages and introduced a draft light pollution ordinance to the county in May of 2021.

From 2021-2023, DarkSky Point Reyes presented monthly stargazing classes with noted astronomy teacher Don Jolley. Every three months, Laura and Peggy met with Officer Beekman, representatives from DSI, National Park Service Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division, Dennis Rodoni’s office, Marin County Community Development Agency, and a lighting design expert. Letters from nine communities representing over 90% of coastal residents now support a new light pollution ordinance, a prerequisite for the DSI application.

Efforts to move the initiative forward are gaining momentum in West Marin.