The distinction honors subdivisions and unincorporated neighborhoods that actively plan to reduce light pollution and promote the night sky, according to the International Dark-Sky Association’s website.
“We take the honor quite seriously, especially in the setting of ongoing growth in Travis County,” said Susan Silberman, River Hills Neighborhood Association secretary. “We are directly across the [Colorado] River from Emma Long Metropolitan Park in the foothills of the Texas Hill Country, so if there was ever a place to maintain a dark sky, this is it. We want to leave a legacy of a dark sky for our future generations.”
River Hills becomes the second neighborhood in the Austin area to be awarded the honor, joining West Austin neighborhood Lost Creek. The cities of Dripping Springs and Horseshoe Bay are the only two Texas cities certified as International Dark-Sky Communities.
Silberman said the neighborhood had informally promoted lighting standards approved by the International Dark-Sky Association for years, but the neighborhood association officially adopted the standards for all residents last year.
River Hills residents also focus on encouraging other communities to join in the fight against light pollution through outreach and education events, she said.
The neighborhood has hosted stargazing parties where residents gather with telescopes and look to the sky, she said. Residents also participated in the International Dark-Sky Association’s Night Sky Festival last March in Dripping Springs.
“You don’t keep the dark skies to yourself," Silberman said. "You share it with people.”
River Hills will be co-hosting events with the Austin Astronomical Society on Sept. 8 and 9 that are focused on reducing "sky glow" produced by the city of Austin, she said.
"If we don’t start to protect our dark skies now, it will be too late," Silberman said. "Once they are obliterated by light trespassing and light pollution, there's no easy way of mitigating it. We really are trying to be as preventative and proactive as we can."