When you look up at the night sky what do you see? For many of us, light pollution limits the view. But a new dark sky park in Cass County, Michigan will provide a place to see the night sky in its full glory.
Getting Dr. T.K. Lawless Park designated as an International Dark Sky Park was a labor of love for Robert Parrish, a board member for Cass County Parks and Recreation. It was the memory of his father that inspired him to pursue the project.
“My father loved looking at the night sky," Parrish said. "He was a longtime member of the United States Navy, and he would relate to me when I was a boy the stories of how beautiful the night sky was from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.”
Dark sky parks have strict limits on the amount of artificial light allowed because it obscures the view of stars. The Cass County park, near the Michigan-Indiana border, is the state’s second certified International Dark Sky Park. The Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City was the first. Visitors from all over go there to see a sky full of stars, including the Milky Way. It’s also a prime viewing spot to see the Northern Lights.
The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is the group that certifies sites as dark sky parks. The application process is rigorous and requires applicants to demonstrate the surrounding community supports dark sky protection. The IDA reviews the applications and requires regular updates to make sure dark sky parks stay committed to preservation.
The Dr. T.K. Lawless Park is an ideal location for a dark sky park, according to Parrish. It is in a secluded area and is topographically low, which helps prevent light pollution from reaching the area.
“On a moonless night, you couldn’t see the hand in front of your face,” he said.
Parrish said many people never get to see a truly dark sky, and he hopes the new park helps change that. Experiencing an unpolluted night sky, Parrish said, could spur people to support dark sky conservation efforts. It is also an opportunity to reflect on our connection to each other and to the universe.
“Whether you believe humans are on earth by intelligent design or science happenstance, we’re all made of star stuff. Being able to look at the night sky uninhibited by light pollution reminds us of our origins.”
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Olive Scott.