Bayfield Carnegie Library’s motto is “A compass for curious minds.” One of the primary goals of library director Teresa Weber is to enlighten the public. Right now, Teresa is also trying to “enlighten” the walkways leading to the library without negatively impacting the dark skies over the city. Teresa recently spoke with Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore board member Neil Howk about this upcoming project. Neil also serves on the library board.
Neil: What do you know about the history of the lamp poles presently at the library?
Teresa: I have some information, but I’m not sure if it’s 100% accurate. The streetlamps that are here are old streetlamps from downtown (Bayfield), probably a couple series ago. They were sold for a dollar apiece (when they were replaced), and five came here to the library. You can find some at the Good Thyme restaurant near Washburn also. They were not original to the library, but I understand that they were old streetlights from Bayfield.
Neil: So, this was several decades ago?
Teresa: When I see pictures from when the library was built (1903), the lights are not in there. I don’t think they were here in the 1940s either, it was after that.
Neil: Why do you want to replace the present lights?
Teresa: They are in bad repair. There are five around the library. Each one has missing parts. The two lights by the handicapped accessible entrance have exposed wires. We’ve had to find ways to cover the wires. One is covered with sheet metal and the other with plastic and duct tape.
Neil: What do you want to replace the poles with?
Teresa: We’d like to get new poles. We did a lot of conversation about repairing the poles we have but have come to the decision that we can do something good if we get new poles. They would match those that are on the streets in Bayfield. The poles on the street are 14 feet tall. Ours would be ten feet tall. So, they would be a shorter version of the same (design). But in talking with the company, I learned that we can get dark sky sensitive (lights). That was the decision maker, really.
When I called to get a quote to see the difference between getting the lights repaired and buying new, and I found out we could get new lights that were dark sky sensitive, that helped me make the decision.
Neil: Do you know what makes the lights dark sky sensitive?
Teresa: What I understand is that the light goes down instead of up. And I think there is also a color difference. I think that instead of being a bright white, they are a softer yellow color.
Neil: Why was getting dark sky sensitive lights an important consideration?
Teresa: I just feel that if you know it can be done, you should do it. I just said that I don’t even want a quote for the other lights. Then you have to debate with yourself. If you know it can be done, that should be the goal. So that’s it, that’s what we’re doing.
Neil: How is the project being funded?
Teresa: I included it on the (city’s) list of capital improvements, but I’m hoping to self-fund the purchase. We are doing fund raisers. We are asking people (in the library) to donate pocket change for the light poles. We put a notice in our newsletter that people can donate to dedicate a memorial plaque that will be placed on a light pole. We are also holding a “January Jubilee” celebration at the library and using the funds from that for the new lights. We also sent out a capital campaign (fundraising) letter in December and listed several things including the lampposts, tuck pointing which did not get done in the last renovation, repairs to the retaining wall (along the sidewalk), things that were put aside before because of cost.
Neil: Do you do any dark sky related programs at the library?
Teresa: It’s something that we would love to do here at the library. I don’t have anything planned right now, but it might be waiting for a spark. This might be it. Just knowing that it will be darker outside may be the reason to have a program.
Neil: That’s great. Thanks Teresa.
Neil Howk began working as a park ranger/interpreter for the National Park Service in 1978. He worked at a number of different parks over the years and served as the assistant chief of interpretation at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore from 1993-2016. He now serves as a board member of Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
Editor’s note: The International Dark Sky Association offers tips for communities, businesses and homeowners about how best to achieve responsible ourdoor lighting. The organization offers five principles as well as practical recommendations.
In 2024, Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is launching the Apostle Islands Starry Skies Project, which includes pursuing Dark Sky Park certification for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Learn more about it here.