Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An antidote to what ails you; a remedy for disillusionment: Michigan's Dark Sky Park

Unnecessary light pollution plagues our cities, suburbs and countrysides.

Gas stations are illuminated like white hot suns. Whole floors of office buildings stay lit for a solitary night owl worker. And blazing security lights click on constantly throughout my neighborhood (note to neighbors: walking my dog on the sidewalk is NOT A THREAT; recalibrate your lights, goats).

But in Michigan we are still blessed with dark places where the Milky Way and a million twinkling stars inspire awe and wonder. Places where science and religion combined seem pitiable tools of inquiry. Places where – necks craned and mouths agape – words are insignificant to define what we see.

One of those places has now been recognized internationally. Michigan has an International Dark Sky Park. It’s one of only six Dark Sky Parks in the nation – one of nine in the world. 

Located along the Straits of Mackinac on 550 acres of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline called The Headlands, the stargazers' paradise is the result of years of hard work by Emmet County citizens and officials. They were dedicated to preserving this little slice of Pure Michigan that speaks volumes about the quality of life Up North.

The designation required light meter readings from the International Dark Sky Association, the adoption of a special lighting ordinance and 75 pages of paperwork according to my friend Ron Dzwonkowski’s Detroit Free Press column.

In a great tidbit of storytelling, Ron says one “key to securing the designation was the endorsement of Patrick Stonehouse, a teacher and astronomer in neighboring Cheboygan County who from his rooftop observatory in Wolverine discovered a comet in 1998 that the International Astronomical Union has labeled 1998 H1, or Comet Stonehouse.”

Michigan’s International Dark Sky Park. What a great, great story!

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