Brainerd officials discuss policy to reduce light pollution

The policy would include temperature and directional light restrictions.

A street light at a Brainerd intersection.
A street light illuminates a neighborhood Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Updated citywide lighting standards are in the works in Brainerd.

Members from the City Council, Planning Commission and Parks Board have reviewed proposals and approved guidelines that will go into a formal policy. A lighting work group made up of representatives from each of the groups and city staffers reviewed the recommendations that went before officials over the past couple weeks.

Council members agreed to lighting temperature standards during their meeting Jan. 17, mandating newly installed street lights and outdoor lights at private residences to be no brighter than 3,000 Kelvins. This temperature produces a warmer white colored-light compared with the cooler color of lights at 4,000 Kelvins, which is typical for many of the current lights in Brainerd.

Light Kelvings.JPG
A lighting chart included in the agenda packet for the Jan. 17, 2023 Brainerd City Council meeting shows the warm-colored light emitted by 3,000 Kelvins, which is the maximum temperature proposed by city staff in a new lighting policy.

They also decided on directional light control. Current technology allows for more control of the direction light is emitted compared with the street lights in Brainerd today, which throw light in all directions evenly. There is an option, staff informed the council, for 100/0 lights, which mean 100% of the light is emitted toward the street with none behind the fixture, which would prevent excess light going into residences. Another option — which the council agreed to put in the policy — is 80/20 lights, which emit 80% of the light toward the street and the other 20% behind the fixture. This option is beneficial in areas with sidewalks to allow for a slight amount of light to illuminate the walking path or any obstructions.

These standards, which council members said they would like to see in the new policy, would apply to new lights installed during road projects or at any other time but would not require current lights to be updated. Lights at softball fields or ice rinks in parks would be exempt from the temperature and directional standards as well.


The city also has the option to add a $125 photocell to light poles to make them dimmable. The draft proposal of the policy Planning Commission members reviewed Jan. 18 states all new nonresidential lighting must dim by at least 50% or turn off by 10 p.m. or one hour after the close of business, whichever is later.

Parks Board members reviewed the policy proposal Tuesday, Jan. 24, and agreed to the same 3,000 Kelvin temperature standard for lights in parks aside from those illuminating sports fields and rinks.

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They also gave their general support for future new lights in parks to follow along with those chosen for the new Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park, taking shape along the Mississippi River on East River Road.

The same $125 photocells allowing lights to be dimmable could also be used to turn park lights into motion sensing lights after a certain time of night if officials so choose. Parks Board member Kevin Yeager said Tuesday he would be in favor of testing out motion sensing lights in one of the city’s parks — such as Gregory, where vandalism has historically been an issue — to see if it is something desirable for all the parks.

After presenting the policy proposals to Parks Board, Planning Commission and City Council members and gaining more feedback, City Engineer Jessie Dehn and Community Development Director James Kramvik said they would draft the recommendations into a more formal policy to come before the bodies for final approval. The policy would likely go through a public hearing at the Planning Commission level before moving on to the City Council, who would have the final say in the policy.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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