In 2014, Zion started the redesign and expansion of the visitor center parking lot. This project included the addition of lights to help visitors trying to find their vehicles after dark. The original project design called for 32 pole-mounted lights in and around the parking area, a design similar to what would be found in a typical town parking lot. However, national parks are different—Zion National Park is responsible for protecting park resources, including the night sky. Light pollution—excessive and unnecessary artificial light at night—would diminish the views of the stars, and impair the habitat of nocturnal wildlife. What was the park to do?
To solve this problem, park staff re-designed the lighting layout, reducing the number of light poles from 32 to nine. The fixtures themselves also prevent light pollution—the lamps are fully shielded, allowing no light to shine up into the sky. By aiming the light where it is needed, the brightness of each light could be reduced, saving on energy use. Additionally, the lights have “warm white” LED lamps, easier on the eyes and better for wildlife. Smart controls allow the lights to be significantly dimmed later in the evening, and timers turn the lights off after shuttles stop running for the night. These dark sky-friendly lighting features enabled the park to balance convenience and safety of visitors with preservation of natural resources.
Throughout the park, additional lighting projects are underway. Lights are being retrofitted (and replaced where necessary) to prevent light pollution, while maintaining basic safety needs.
You can help preserve the starry night sky! Prevent light pollution at home and elsewhere by following these guidelines:
Last updated: July 5, 2018