The Town Council has given its approval to expansion of a pilot program to address glare from the bollard lights that ring the walkways at Fountain Park.
Last May Ted Blank, vice president for the board of the International Dark Sky Discovery Center, and a board member for the Fountain Hills Dark Sky Association, chose one of the lights in the park and spray painted the surface below the lamps that reflects the light outward. Blank was given permission to do the test on the single light by Town Manager Grady Miller.
Measurements using an LED light meter indicate that the light reflected out and up away from the bollard was reduced by 90 percent when the reflector was painted black. At the same time the light shining downward onto the sidewalk was not significantly impacted by the paint.
Blank has observed the durability of the paint over the summer and said there has been little deterioration of the surface. He asked the council to allow him, under the supervision of staff and with volunteers, to paint an additional 20 bollards to further evaluate the lighting.
Two areas of the park have been selected where 10 consecutive light reflectors will be painted. Those sites are just south of the east parking lot and south of the amphitheater.
Miller said that the objective of the project is to have staff evaluate the modified light fixtures to ensure that the black paint will not reduce the amount of light emitted by the bollards. They want to ensure that there is no safety hazard posed by the project and that the light emitted continues to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards for park walking paths.
After concluding the study Blank and staff will report findings back to the council. If it is determined there is no negative impact on safety and the paint adequately reduces glare, Blank and a team of volunteers may seek to continue the project to include all of the bollards along the walkways.
If it is determined that the paint significantly reduces the amount of light on the walkways volunteers will remove the paint and return the bollards to their original state.
Councilman Dennis Brown said he appreciates the effort, but did have a concern. Brown said if they go out and paint in excess of 500 lights around the park, what happens in 10 years when they need painting again?
“Is there any way these can be disassembled and recoated with the powder coat to assure a longer lifetime?” Brown asked.
Blank said, to his knowledge, that is not an option.
Councilman Mike Scharnow said his concern is somewhat the opposite of Brown.
“If we decide this doesn’t work can we get the paint off?” Scharnow asked.
Blank said that he had tried, and although it takes a lot of elbow grease, the paint does come off if necessary.
Blank said he has 23 volunteers willing to help out with the project, which is to be supervised by park staff. He said it takes about 15 minutes per light fixture to paint.
Glare from the lights has been an ongoing complaint since the bollards were installed, as well as the potential impact on dark skies.
The council vote was 7-0 to support the pilot.