After two years of proposals and discussions, the Winthrop Town Council last week quietly approved changes in the town’s outdoor lighting regulations intended to reduce light pollution.
The council adopted Winthrop Planning Commission recommendations that were developed in response to efforts by the Methow Dark Sky Coalition, a local nonprofit organization, to make the town part of a valley-wide “dark sky community” devoted to mitigating light pollution.
The revised regulations, which would particularly affect the downtown area, are intended to reduce “light trespass” and promote public safety. There is a five-year timeline for compliance.
The Dark Sky Coalition conducted research on how dark skies communities have been established in other parts of the country. The group began making presentations to the Planning Commission and Town Council in 2019, with the hope that Winthrop would move toward adopting some of the ideas.
The changes will apply to all public and private outdoor lighting, but not to interior lighting. The regulations will require full-cutoff fixtures that aim light downwards, and the use of warm-spectrum lighting.
Exemptions would include existing streetlights until they are replaced; emergency lighting; outdoor lighting for temporary events; lighting for public recreation or athletic facilities such as the Winthrop Rink during operating hours; and lighting that illuminates the American flag. The proposal also specifies which types of lighting fixtures will be acceptable, and which will not.
In other business:
• The council agreed to consider a request by Methow Rafting that the company be allowed to use access to the Methow River from Mack Lloyd Park for tubing trips.
According to a memo by Town Planner Rocklynn Culp, Methow Rafting would erect a tent at the east end of the park as the starting point for tubing trips to the KOA campground. Methow Rafting proposed to operate for about six weeks each summer, and to pay the town a fee for using the park property. Culp noted that some other companies already use the Mack Lloyd Park river access as a starting point for floating the river.
Methow Rafting owner Brandon Bertelsen said the company had been launching tube trips from the River Run Inn but is no longer able to because of a change in Okanogan County policy. Bertelsen said the proposal to operate from Mack Lloyd park would not take effect until next summer.
Culp told the council that an agreement would need to be structured between the town and Methow Rafting including consideration of the town’s potential liability. Culp said she was “confident there is a path” to making such an agreement work. The council authorized staff to review the town’s options.
• The council also approved an event application for the Gran Fondo bicycle tour planned for Sept. 18. However, council members noted that portions of the 80-mile route are currently in evacuation zones established after the Cub Creek Fire broke out, which may affect the event.