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New holiday light policy for Banff

BANFF – Banff wants to avoid festive lights being strung willy-nilly on trees and poles during the winter season.
Banff council is set to officially approve a 2019 operational budget in the new year. As of its final meeting in 2018, but proposed municipal property tax increase was at 5.44 per cent.

BANFF – Banff wants to avoid festive lights being strung willy-nilly on trees and poles during the winter season.

Seasonal or holiday lighting aims to add pageantry for visitors to the tourist town, however, a new policy lays out the rules for future winter illumination projects for both the Town of Banff as well as Lake Louise.

The policy provides a consistent way to arrange lights town-wide instead of the current ad-hoc process, and aims to protect the night sky and nocturnal wildlife from the negative effects of unnecessary lighting.

Emma Sanborn, development policy planner for the Town of Banff, said considerations for timing, intensity and colour temperature of bulbs have been added to the policy to lessen the effect of night lighting on wildlife.

Sanborn said Parks Canada’s recommendations have also been included into tree lighting guidelines to reduce the risk of wildlife, such as deer and elk, from getting entangled in string lights.

“Future lighting will be energy efficient, not damage trees, warm in colour, subtle and glare-free to protect the night sky,” she said.

Currently, seasonal or holiday lighting is put up each year through the combined efforts of several groups.

Banff Lake Louise Tourism (BLLT) has applied for grants, bought lights and hired contractors to install displays at both entrances to town and at Central Park, all with the goal of enhancing the winter visitor experience in the tourist town.

The Town of Banff has chipped in some money for the BLLT lights, and the municipality’s operations department helps with installation, removal and storage of lights for certain projects such as the outdoor skating rink at the high school.

Banff is incorporating many of the best practices recommended by The International Dark-Sky Association, a non-profit organization that advocates to end night pollution and protect night sky.

The group promotes illumination that is only on when needed, is only as bright as necessary, minimizes blue light emissions and is fully shielded and directed downwards.

Mayor Karen Sorensen said a policy was needed.

“It’s not like we’re going to be throwing stuff out if we don’t meet the policy. Obviously this is in mind as future projects come in to do more,” she said.

Under the policy, existing lighting on Banff Avenue would be extended to Bear Street, Banff Avenue east entrance, Tunnel Mountain high school field, Banff’s west entrance, Central Park, Cave Avenue and the railway lands.

The Queen’s willows at the train station will also be lit.

“It would be considered, but only uplighting and not strings of lights that are typically wrapped around or placed within trees,” said Randall McKay, the director of planning and development.