A grassroots efforts by a Beverly Shores couple to reduce light pollution in the Lake Michigan shoreline town may be recognized by an international organization supporting the efforts.
Alan and Rosemary Bell addressed the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission's Environmental Management Policy Committee meeting Thursday in Portage seeking support for their efforts.
The Bells joined the Beverly Shores Environmental Committee in 2006 after receiving a copy of National Geographic magazine from a friend with a cover story about light pollution.
The couple then embarked on a campaign to alter the 61 street lights in town to direct light toward the ground, thereby reducing glare.
They said reducing glare is easier on aging eyes and improves safety by providing clearer visibility in dark areas.
"We need to change the 'we've always done it this way' mentality," Alan Bell said. "More light isn't necessarily more secure or safe light."
The couple worked with NIPSCO to install downward shields with flat bottoms to direct the public street lights toward the ground at a reduced rate with matching funds from the town.
Beverly Shores didn't have the funds needed, so the Bells spearheaded a fundraising effort.
"After we did it, people just started writing us checks," Rosemary Bell said.
They received $10,000 from the homeowner's association and eventually had to cut off donations because of the overwhelming support.
The town now has decreased the number of streetlights from 61 to 48, all of which have the downward shields.
The Bells are now working to get shields for lights on a pumping station operated by the Michigan City Water Department and with the Indiana Department of Correction for the Michigan City prison.
The Bells are also working with residents on ways to inexpensively improve their lighting as well. One resident installed a shield for just $5.
The Bells are working with town officials and region leaders to get letters of endorsement in an effort to be designated one of a handful of communities recognized by the International Dark Sky Association as a dark sky community.
The NIRPC committee agreed to endorse their efforts.
Alan Bell said education is the key, for builders, contractors, government officials and residents.
"We're just two people joining the environmental committee and we did something," Rosemary Bell said. "We're hoping to get the designation soon."