Payson Will Protect Night Skies

Photographer, geologist and president of the Rim Country Camera Club, Greg McKelvey, captured this dramatic image of the night skies over Rim Country.

Photo by Greg McKelvey.

Photographer, geologist and president of the Rim Country Camera Club, Greg McKelvey, captured this dramatic image of the night skies over Rim Country.



Photographer, geologist and president of the Rim Country Camera Club, Greg McKelvey, captured this dramatic image of the night skies over Rim Country. This long exposure shot below captures the stars wheeling about the North Star in a shot that took hours to create.

If you like to go outside at night and stargaze, you aren’t alone. Payson wants to protect that starry view by becoming a designated International Dark Sky Community.

The move, they hope, will be a tourism draw. Many of the tourists that visit Payson are from the Valley where the city glows under plenty of outdoor lighting, but the sky, except for a few planets, is mostly dim.

Sedona and Flagstaff are already part of 14 communities around the world with the International Dark Sky Community badge, environmentally conscious places that promote stewardship of the night sky, according to a town memo.

The idea of registering with the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), a nonprofit organization founded in 1988, with headquarters in Tucson, said Sheila DeSchaaf, with community development. DeSchaaf did not know the name of the group.

“As a tourism-driven community, the night sky is an important contribution toward Payson being Arizona’s Cool Mountain Town, and that must be preserved,” wrote Trevor Fleetham, with planning.


To qualify for the Dark-Sky designation the town would have to make some minimal changes to its current code.

“Our dark-sky provisions have been in place since approximately 1998 and in some cases are already more stringent than some of the guidelines from IDA,” DeSchaaf said in an email. “There are a few things that all of the communities endorsed by IDA that we would need to add such as a maximum number of lumens per acre, whereas currently our requirements are somewhat less specific and state that lighting shall be of a minimum necessary to serve the purpose intended and light may not trespass beyond the property line, etc.”

The current Unified Development Code has provisions that regulate outdoor lights, such that they are shielded and shine down.

“Our current standard actually requires the source of the illumination (essentially the bulb) to be shielded. Light is not allowed to shine up or out, whereas the IDA standards regulate only light shining upward into the sky,” DeSchaaf said.

The town adopted this due to the varying elevations in the area where a light shielded from the sky could still be a nuisance to a neighboring property, especially if the light were on a home at a higher elevation.

The town would likely adopt a maximum lumens per acre cap that would be applicable to new commercial construction.

Current regulations are quantified in foot-candles.

The council Thursday agreed to move forward with the process to become a Dark Sky Community, directing staff to draft the necessary updates to the town code.

There will be several public hearings before any code changes occur, during which time staff will address any amendments.


Bruce Heffner 2 weeks ago

A great idea. Please start by turning off the street lights on West Chatham Drive.


Donnie Evans 1 week, 6 days ago

How about shutting off the Rumsey Park Baseball Field lights that front Payson Parkway. They are left on very late at night way after any activity use. Taking out the dead and dying planted trees at that location would also be an improvement.


Pat Randall 1 week, 6 days ago

I lived in Payson before APS ever brought electricity here. You didn't see the stars and moon any better then than where there are st. lights now. We were grateful for the st. lights on Main and a few other places. I live in one of the dark neighborhoods now and don't like it at all. I am afraid to go outside after dark. I only go out when there is a full moon. So watch out! Tourist are not going to come here and spend the night looking at stars. Who thought up Payson as Arizona's Cool Mountain Town? There are so many other towns in Arizona that are much cooler and prettier. The temperature in them does not get to 100, and in the winter you can snow ski there. You can leave Tucson and drive up to Mount Lemon in the summer and see snow. Tucson is right at the foot of Mt. Lemon if you are not familiar with Az.


Michael Alexander 1 week, 6 days ago

Paragraph 4... the Roundup needs a proofreader. And Pat... if I ever throw a Chamber of Commerce Cheerleading Event, you're not invited. Well, you can come, but you sure won't be the guest speaker. ;) When I go out walking at night, I take my dog with me, a flashlight and a pistol... It's Arizona, ferpetessake. If the bad guys are out there, the last thing I want is to be spotlighted as a sitting duck by a street lamp.


Mike White 1 week, 6 days ago

Sounds like a good idea that would greatly benefit the community with minimal negative impact on anyone. Seeing at nights is what car headlights and flashlights are for. No need tor those intrusive street lights, overly bright business signs, spotlights that are left on, etc.


Pat Randall 1 week, 5 days ago

Why don't you all move back to where you came from? That is what my husband and I did when we retired. Think how we felt the way Payson and Pine changed after you all moved here. Yes we had a house in Pine and still have it even tho I live in Payson where I was raised. The stars and moon are just as bright now as they were then. Get away from Walmart and the bars at night and look up.

Michael it is because of people like you I don't go out after dark, don't want to meet some idiot with a gun.


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