Vision for Riverfront Parks and Trails

South Bend, IN, is something to watch. Community input may guide how millions of dollars in grant money will be parlayed into quality of life. The artery of the region is about to get an infusion of energy.

On Sept. 8, 2016, a crowd gathered at the Century Center for the public debut of Riverfront Parks and Trails intitiative. The city is applying some of its award from the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative to conjoin its waterfront and its neighborhoods. The St. Joseph River is becoming the front yard to the city.

Park leader Aaron Perri and Mayor Pete Buttigieg introduced the plan, along with members from the design team SmithGroup JJR. A special nod goes to Sam Centelles for welcoming Spanish-speaking residents into the dialogue about the region's future.

Attendees then gathered around aerial maps of distinct sections along the river to communicate their ideas to the design team. I joined the crowd in writing comments on sticky notes and affixing them onto the large photos. Funny how I wanted to slip the note on seemingly unseen but wanted to be certain the team saw the message. Going from memory (I stopped taking photos), I wrote things like...

  • "Next time please have nametags with big font for the presenters."

  • "A few years ago a team of students from IUSB presented their community design idea in the large auditorium of the SJCPL. Can you revisit their handiwork?"

  • "Separate faster bike traffic from slower pedestrian traffic. It can be an issue, e.g., at Chicago waterfront trails."

  • "Please integrate the sun as a point of interest into the landscape. For example, build alignments that the public can watch during the solstice or equinox. It's free, unique, and engaging ."

I had also prepared some written comments to give to both the city and the design team. Among the crowd I eventually found and spoke with a company rep, to whom I verbally reiterated a few of my posted comments. After I stated my concern about LED lighting choices, he acknowledged the work of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) and briefly shared some thoughts about outdoor lighting. To conclude our conversation, I gave him a copy of my inaugural input on the Riverfront Parks and Trails plan.

I wrote:

I ask that the riverfront parks and trails plan include a clear vision about outdoor lighting. As municipalities, businesses, and residents improve energy efficiency by upgrading to LED lights and other lighting technologies, please recognize the best science of the day to mitigate the deleterious effects of light on human health, the environment, and public safety. For example, all outdoor lighting should be full cutoff and minimize glare, light trespass, and sky glow. Additionally, when purchasing LED fixtures, responsible users will select lights which have a CCT rating at or below 3000K.

The lighting industry uses the correlated color temperature (CCT) rating system as a simplified means to suggest a light source's actual spectral power distribution. Bluish white light that is rated near 5000K is more harmful because it coincides with wavelengths that most disrupt the human circadian system. Known effects of blue-rich white light (http://darksky.org/wp-content/uploads/bsk-pdf-manager/3_SEEINGBLUE.PDF) include circadian disruption, negative ecological considerations, increased atmospheric scatter and skyglow, slowed adaptation of the aging eye, increased glare, and more. Hence, lights with peak output toward the "warmer" (admittedly a misnomer) colors and away from the "cooler" blues are more advantageous. Ideally, engineers should strive to use the following lighting types to achieve the best effect for human health and the environment: Narrow-Band Amber LED (NBALED) Phosphor-Converted (PC) Amber LED LED with CCT of 2400K Filtered LED (FLED) In recent years we've come to understand better the properties of light and its effects on the human body and the natural kingdom alike. As we move forward in upgrading riverfront parks and trails, let us modify our habits and lessen our impact by reducing light waste and by selecting the least harmful light.

Let us see how South Bend responds.

You can find more information about and submit input to the Riverfront Parks & Trails at their snazzy website www.riverfrontparksandtrails.com and on Facebook.

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