Turn Out the Lights
It has been a relatively quiet summer of volunteer activity on town trails, as most people have been taking time to enjoy other pursuits. However, plants along the trails have been lapping up our relatively wet summer and growing vigorously. A few of us have been able to cut back branches, remove fallen limbs and clear invasive plants from portions of the Blue Trail in Meadows Tract, the White Trail off Rimmon Road, the entrance to Racebrook Tract from Racebrook Road, the entrance to the Orange Trail at Cassaway Road, and the Newton Road Park Trail at Hampton Drive (where visitors from Australia were impressed by our efforts and the extent of access to trails in Woodbridge). The next second Sunday of the month trail cleanup/maintenance event is scheduled for September 10 from 11:00 am - 12:30 pm.
The public spaces through which our trails traverse provide critical habitat for many creatures, large and small. However, due to the crowding out of native plants by invasives, particularly barberry, burning bush, multiflora rose and ________ (fill-in-the blank with the most prominent plant pest in your area), our home landscapes play an increasingly important role in providing ecologically diverse habitat. Unfortunately, the benefits of even the most environmentally friendly landscape can be greatly diminished by pollution that is ubiquitous but rarely mentioned.
When you stroll or drive around at night, how often do you see homes and yards ablaze in light from flood lights? This is light pollution and it is detrimental to human health as well as the environment. We are used to seeing bees and butterflies feast on flowers during the daytime. But many animals are nocturnal. Bats, many birds, moths, and other insects are active at night and bright lights disrupt their movements, and behaviors, such as migration and reproduction. Some are active pollinators; others are food for pollinators. All are important in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, which supports our own health. To quote Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy, authors of The Living Landscape, “Ecosystems function locally, not globally”.
Fortunately, this form of pollution is easily controlled in residential communities like Woodbridge. Consider the following to control light pollution from your property: 1) Evaluate the lights you currently have. What is their purpose? For example, when you are expecting guests, there is no reason to light up your whole house and bushes; illuminating the front walkway and house number is more than adequate. 2) Aim the lights down to where they are needed, not up towards the sky and use fixtures that shield light from shining upwards. Be aware that light-colored and wet surfaces can reflect light to the sky also. 3) Use the lowest wattage bulbs needed, preferably LED, and use bulbs that emanate warm colors, like yellow. 4) Where possible, use motion sensors to activate lights. Turn off lights and timers when not needed. Close window shades and curtains at night to keep indoor light from escaping outdoors.
There are other benefits from adopting this strategy. Save money on lower electric bills. Reduce pollution from generation of electricity. Get outside and gaze at the sky; admire how many more stars are suddenly visible as you share the night with our nocturnal friends.
Andrew Danzig is the Woodbridge Trailmaster and a UConn certified Advanced Master Gardener.