By agreeing to put shields on the lights in Municipal Jaycee Park, Westminster officials apparently have solved a problem that has bothered neighboring residents in Whispering Meadows since the night lights were first turned on last year. By equipping the lights with these "bonnets" that direct the light, the amount of glare and "spillover" from the floodlights will be reduced by 30 to 40 percent.
City officials will pay about $3,000 for the 15 metal shields. To further minimize the annoyance to homeowners, the city will plant a buffer of trees and bushes between the park and the nearby homes.
In a county where youth recreation opportunities are limited, lighted athletic fields can get a great deal of use. Eliminating the night games and practices from the Municipal Jaycee Park would have been a mistake. These fields were not in use late into the night. On most evenings, the lights were turned off by 9 p.m., which allowed the people living in the surrounding houses to enjoy the night darkness.
To their credit, the neighbors who were inconvenienced didn't seek to eliminate the night games and practices. They just wanted the lights to be less annoying.
A number of residents were dismayed that it took more than a year for Westminster officials to address the problem. Even more surprising was the admission by several city council members that they had not been aware that the lights had been a nuisance.
For nearly a year before the lights were installed in 1993, city officials had solicited comments from residents in the Greens about the wisdom of installing the lights. Residents had been expressing their reservations before the lights were installed and continued to express them afterward. If council members weren't aware of the problem, they must not have been listening.
Even though the process was probably drawn out longer than need be, the willingness of both sides to compromise resulted in preserving a valuable community resource. The youth leagues will continue to play at night, and people in the houses adjacent to the field won't be quite so blinded by the field's bright lights.
More community problems should be resolved in this accommodative fashion.