Sturgeon Bay Man Selected as International Dark Sky Advocate

A Sturgeon Bay man has become one of two Wisconsin residents on a map of International Dark-Sky Association advocates.

Successful efforts to reign in light pollution in Door County and frequent participation in international online Zoom meetings encouraged Tom Gwilym to fill out an application to become a northern Wisconsin advocate for dark skies. Gwilym serves as vice president of Door Peninsula Astronomical Society and lead telescope wrangler at the society’s site near Big Creek in Sturgeon Bay. The next-nearest IDA advocates are at Galena, Illinois and at Yerkes Observatory near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Earlier this year, Gwilym successfully spearheaded the astronomical society’s effort to persuade Link Media to turn down lights pointing upward at a billboard south of the Highway 57/42 split north of Sturgeon Bay. 

Gwilym looked for contact information for corporate leaders at Kwik Trip this fall when he worried that a large, new gas station and convenience store on Egg Harbor Road might hurt the view from his telescope at home and the society observatory a mile to the east. A corporate official sent him a photo of a Kwik Trip at night and assured Gwilym the lights would shine down and the company would use IDA-approved lighting.

“I want to encourage people to reduce lighting, but still not prevent a business from using lighting, but to be reasonable and save some money on energy,” Gwilym said.

He also is monitoring what sort of lighting will be used for a storage facility under construction near the YMCA, as it is not far from the astronomical society observatory.

Gwilym is a regular participant in IDA webinars and programs and as an advocate, he will continue to log in to IDA Advocate Network training sessions and participate in meetings online on IDA Slack.

Still, he said, “I’m not sure exactly what I’m getting myself into.”

He doesn’t know if IDA would ask him to take on a mission outside of Door County. Advocates are not paid. More likely, someone might email him about what to do about commercial light trespass into their properties or for advice on dealing with residential lights. He said he most recently received a sample of how to write a letter to a neighbor.

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