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Electric Effulgence in Mishawaka

The first city in the world to be lighted entirely by electricity was Wabash, Indiana. On March 31, 1880, thousands of people converged on the small city to watch the debut of carbon-arc lights flooding the downtown. The novel night lighting was so bright a local newspaper dubbed it an "Electric Effulgence."

Within eight years the carbon-arc lights were abandoned. Wabash County Historical Archivist TJ Honeycutt states, "The people who lived around the courthouse...hated the lighting because they would leave it on until two AM most nights, so they would have a flickering light coming in all night long that was really intense."

An overlit new water tower in Mishawaka, Indiana, is following in the Wabash footsteps. Unfortunately, the new design fails to adhere to the first three of five principles of responsible outdoor lighting--the excess light is not useful; the light is neither targeted nor aimed below the horizon; and the light is not sufficiently low.

Continually changing light colors on the monstrous tower is an over-application of technology. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. The visual effect may be a momentary attraction, but its omnipresence for local denizens is oppressive.

I'm sorry, City of Mishawaka, but this display is an eyesore, and its upward-aimed floodlights indisputably contribute to sky glow. You have deliberately spent vast amounts of resident and business dollars on a monument to light pollution. The water division notes online, "While owned by the City of Mishawaka, our efforts are not supported by tax dollars. We are a division of Mishawaka Utilities."

A live webcam shows shows the current illumination of the base of the water tower, so you can follow it throughout the night in all its inglorious splendor.

At the Mishawaka Common Council meeting of January 8, 2014, I publicly advocated for dark skies near this site. I asked the City and the developer to constrain light pollution, thereby showing how "development can be done right while respecting the night."

Over a decade ago the City of Mishawaka suggested it prioritized energy efficiency, but that responsibility to the environment is not evident here.


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