Wellesley letter to the editor: balancing the use of nighttime lighting in town

I am writing to express strong support of Lisa Collins’ candidacy for the Natural Resources Commission (NRC). I have been actively concerned with the natural resources of our town (and beyond) for decades. I’m a MA certified master gardener, have worked in the food pantry and trial gardens at Elm Bank, am an unofficial steward of Beebe Meadow (a protected 8-acre meadow near Benvenue St.), was Hunnewell’s environmental science coordinator, and have volunteered at natural sites around the Commonwealth. I’ve installed rain gardens and rain barrels and taught workshops on vermiculture and in-home winter composting. We keep an organic garden and landscape. We abut wetlands and have been working for over 12 years to replace invasive plants with natives. When we replaced outdoor lighting we chose dark sky fixtures. I want to stress just how committed I am to being a steward of our earth, because…

I believe that our NRC would benefit from a new member who recognizes the importance of balancing the needs of our community with the needs of our natural environment and that candidate is Lisa Collins.

The biggest failure of the NRC for the last ten years has been its inability to approve the facilities and lighting at the WHS track and field. The human need for play, recreation, physical activity, community gathering, shared experiences, and just pure joy must be balanced with the needs of the surrounding environment. Lisa will help bring the NRC back into balance to ensure that its decisions are responsible and consider every stakeholder.

I have watched NRC presentations about how the proposed lights on the field would affect nearby trees and the wildlife. Just to be clear, the lights and their use as proposed by the Wellesley School Committee plan (which is sound, environmentally-conscious, and well-thought out) would not have any appreciable effect. If the NRC is worried about the effects of lights on trees and wildlife, it would do well to consider the harm done by the town’s holiday light installation. The lights installed by the Town in many trees during the darkest and coldest days of the year—with blue lights and large bulbs that stay lit all night long—are somewhat detrimental. Lights placed into trees have a more deleterious effect than lights that illuminate a turf field that is already zoned as a recreational area. Every tree strewn in lights in winter becomes temporarily inhospitable to all forms of wildlife and can throw off the “light/dark” rhythm of the trees themselves. But should we eliminate the holiday lights in town? No. Why not?  Because those lights bring happiness to many residents and visitors and we are balancing the needs of one species with the other. The positive of the holiday lights far outweighs the small negative effect on the trees and resident squirrels. Trees in general are very resilient and our trees are Wellesley-strong—well adjusted to ambient light just by virtue of our proximity to Boston.

Today’s high school seniors should have been playing on an accessible, safe, and well-lit field for the last four years. They were seven years old when this process started. For their entire lives, WHS has not had bathrooms, handicap-accessible facilities, or safe lighting. Their games have been cut short because the field got too dark to play on safely. Injuries occurred that could have been avoided. Grandparents could not attend home games because of the lack of facilities and the absence of lighting.

The NRC should focus its time, attention, and financial resources on protecting and preserving the natural areas of town, not the ones that have been set aside for community recreation and sports. The time and money spent on blocking the completion of the WHS athletics field plans could have been spent on helping support our native plants through the removal of invasive species, better maintaining and supporting the fields and trails near Barton Road, and routinely monitoring the health of our town’s lands. Lisa Collins will consider all stakeholders in her decision making. I hope you will join me in supporting her candidacy on March 1.

Joan Minklei
Cartwright Road