Officials and supporters in Liberty Hill are on a journey to obtain a dark sky community designation and keep the stars overhead visible and shining bright at nighttime.

Some context

Since July, the city of Liberty Hill has been working toward being designated as a dark sky community.

A dark sky community is a “municipality that has shown dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation of a quality outdoor lighting ordinance, dark sky education, and citizen support of dark skies,” according to the International Dark-Sky Association.

The city is now stepping into some of the longest parts of the application process with sky brightness measurements underway and lighting audits just around the corner.

Sky brightness measurements are a process to examine how bright the sky is at nighttime during different periods throughout the year. This process began in early December and will take roughly a year, Planning Technician Shelby Claridge said.

The lighting audit involves the city taking inventory on the type of lights currently on city-owned buildings. Officials said the lighting audit will begin in January and will also be a long process.

The backstory

In August 2022, council adopted an outdoor lighting ordinance, which allows the city to have more authority over signage, electronic message boards and light curfews, Claridge said. The ordinance was one of the first steps on the road to becoming a dark sky community.

Claridge said getting Liberty Hill a dark sky community designation was originally encouraged by council member Amanda Young. Furthermore, it was a desire of the community.

“They don’t like the fact that there’s so much light pollution at night,” Claridge said. “One of the big things about moving out to more rural areas like Liberty Hill is to have a little bit more of the small town nature kind of feel.”

Light pollution is the brightening of the sky by human-made or artificial sources. Claridge said light pollution affects nature, the ecosystem and the migratory pattern of birds, and decreases the firefly population.

​​Quote of note

“Being a dark sky community helps to push the fact that people actually want to still see the stars. It's not all about development and progress,” Claridge said. “It’s also about maintaining the natural beauty in the world.”

What to expect

Officials are anticipating to have the dark sky community application finalized and submitted for review by January 2025. Claridge said if everything with the application goes well, Liberty Hill could have a designation by June or July 2025.

Should the city’s application be approved, Liberty Hill would be the first northern Austin-area city to be designated as a dark sky community.