Cape May Prioritizes Dark Skies and Environmental Education

In a recent meeting, the Cape May Environmental Commission put a strong emphasis on the enforcement of dark sky ordinances and the importance of environmental education, particularly related to climate change and sustainable practices. The commission also welcomed a new member, discussed challenges in the approval of eco-friendly projects, and explored the potential for a community solar project.

The Commission’s attention was notably drawn to the challenges of enforcing dark sky ordinances. The dialogue revolved around the difficulty of public education in a community with a seasonal population, where outdoor lighting is frequently used throughout the day. Members acknowledged that while education programs are beneficial, they often only reach those already informed about environmental issues. To expand their reach, the commission considered a multifaceted approach to education, such as incorporating dark sky information into the newspaper campaign and developing a mailing list to engage architects, builders, and homeowners directly. The economic importance of bird migration and nature tourism was cited as an incentive to promote dark sky practices, with the suggestion of targeting hotels and motels. Further strategies discussed included creating a PowerPoint presentation to provide actionable steps for the community, engaging local organizations and schools, and integrating lighting considerations into planning and zoning board reviews.

The meeting also focused on the city’s Sustainable Jersey recertification process, with an emphasis on sustaining the Silver level certification already achieved. The commission highlighted the importance of this process and discussed the city’s accomplishments in this area.

Another point of discussion was the Dune vegetation management plan. The commission examined the need to review and update the plan, specifically addressing concerns about invasive species and the removal of vegetation. The health and maintenance of dune ecosystems are important for natural coastal protection, biodiversity, and the overall environmental health of the region.

The commission delved into the topic of climate change education. Members proposed the creation of educational materials, such as flyers or brochures, to inform the public about the impacts of climate change and recommended actions. There was a consensus on the necessity to engage the youth and promote eco-friendly practices throughout the community. The potential of a community solar project was also brought up, offering discounted rates to residents, especially in historic districts where traditional solar panels might not be suitable. The idea of posting existing educational flyers on the city’s website was discussed as a means to broaden the reach of the commission’s educational initiatives.

The meeting opened with an acknowledgment of the secretary’s hearing issues, prompting a request for members to speak louder, and the approval of minutes from the previous meeting. It also introduced Sarah Stevenson, who joined the commission, bringing her background in real estate and a keen interest in environmental concerns to the table.

In the planning board report, a recently approved project in La Mer was mentioned, with particular attention to its landscape plan and the chosen eco-friendly native low-water plant species.

The council report included a review of a draft dark sky ordinance provided by a member familiar with similar initiatives in Hopewell, New Jersey. The commission looked to the experiences of Upper Township in implementing such ordinances as a learning opportunity. The importance of public education was underscored in this context, recognizing the hurdles faced in changing public behavior and perceptions about outdoor lighting.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Zachary Mullock
Environmental Commission Officials:
Michael Jones, Meryl Nelson (Secretary), Randell Nuschke, Gretchen Whitman, Christopher Hajduk, Sarah Stevenson, Kim Gronendahl, Barbara Meimbresse, Hope Gaines, Justine Magariel, Michael Yeager (Council Liaison), Charlotte Todd (Non-Voting Member), Angela Judge (Non-Voting Member)

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