BUZZ Duluth: Could lights at Enger lead to anger?Concerns raised over Rotary Club's generous offer to illuminate Enger Tower.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
Peter Passi covers issues related to the city of Duluth. Follow BUZZ on Twitter.
Could gift to Enger lead to anger?
As we reported Monday, Rotary Club No. 25 of Duluth has announced it will make a generous gift of $100,000 to light the Duluth's Enger Observation Tower. Lighting the 71-year-old tower is the club's way of recognizing its own 100th birthday in 2011.
But the idea of illuminating Enger Tower has stirred some misgivings, as well. At the risk of looking the proverbial gift horse in the mouth, I'll share a few concerned voices that have come to my attention since Monday's story ran.
Here at the News Tribune, AstroBob (aka Bob King, our photo director and resident astronomy blogger) groaned at the prospect of more potential light pollution creating haze in the night sky and making it harder to watch stars. He's hoping the city can find a way to illuminate the sides of the tower without simultaneously casting a beam of wayward light into the great beyond.
Aaron Bronsky of the Arrowhead Astronomical Society said he isn't against the lighting project, so long is it's done right.
"Outdoor lighting can be done in a way that's decorative and accomplishes the visual goals of a project without causing degradation of the night skies," said Bronsky. "It's not necessarily an either-or proposition. It's more a question of: Do you want a good design or an inefficient one?"
He noted that using state-of-the-art focused light also makes sense because it keeps operating costs in check.
Duluth City Architect Terry Groshong assured me when I spoke to him Friday that the system was being designed to incorporate high-efficiency LED and/or xenon lights that would be carefully trained on the tower in a manner that should minimize light pollution.
But of course, it's impossible to light a structure the size of the Enger Tower without a few stray photons. This will likely be more of an exercise in trying to keep that light spillage to a minimum.
Stargazers aren't the only ones wringing hands.
Luke Meints, an electrician for the city of Duluth, also voiced aesthetic concerns in a letter he sent to city councilors:
"I have not seen the lighting plans but my concern is that Enger Tower will be illuminated like St. Scholastica with large metal halide fixtures shining up on the structure. This works well at St. Scholastica but I believe it would detract from a person’s view of the city from inside Enger Tower by having lights shining up in their eyes. I also believe the warm orange glow of the tower would be lost with the exterior illumination. The green crown of Enger Tower could also be brought up to the brightness it had years ago by removing the LED fixture strips and re-installing the original style neon tubes which we have in our inventory.
"Last year I corrected a number of hazardous electrical issues at Enger Tower and am aware that the lighting in the park needs improvement. I believe that the money proposed by the Rotary Club would be a great help in improving the lighting issues but could also be used for other much needed improvements in the park as well.
"Before you approve any proposal for lighting at the park, I hope that you have a chance to look at the plans and see how it will affect the character of the Park that thousands of people including myself and my family have enjoyed throughout the years."
What are your thoughts regarding this initiative? After all, it's better to put concerns on the table early. Otherwise, we risk having to look back in anger at what's become of Enger. (My apologies to John Osborne.)