Northern Michigan: In May of 2011, Emmet County’s Headlands park was recognized as an International Dark Sky Park, the sixth Dark Sky Park in the nation and ninth in the world; and the designation is already leading to bigger things.
The Michigan House and Senate have both approved HB 5414, the “Dark Sky Coast” bill, protecting the night sky above another 21,000 contiguous acres of state forest land in Emmet County’s northwestern tip, near the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Gov. Rick Snyder signed the bill into law the first week of July; it is now P.A. 251.
The bill does not place any requirements on land owners; it simply requires that any lighting on the included public lands be directed downward so as not to create glare which interferes with the view of the night sky. While the legislative action will not require homeowners or businesses to change their lighting practices, it is intended to encourage more residents and visitors to protect the night sky as a resource that sets Emmet County apart, according to Lyn Johnson, Emmet County Controller.
“The protection of the dark sky and the cultural resources and natural amenities are extremely important to the county,” said Johnson. “Further, the impact this will have on bringing visitors into the community, thereby spurring economic growth, and the added educational value for our residents and visitors are priceless benefits. The uniqueness of Emmet County and the high standards we set separate us from larger, more developed urban areas where people can no longer see the stars.”
Since its recognition as an International Dark Sky Park, thousands of visitors have learned about the park and participated in free monthly programs (click here to find out about upcoming programs!). Because of such tremendous public interest in the Dark Sky Park, and in particular the programs of celestial lore and astronomical wonder hosted by the Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams, the idea of creating a Dark Sky Coast took off.
“Recognizing northern Emmet County as Michigan’s Dark Sky Coast opens up a wonderful new way for people to enjoy the natural world,” said Tom Bailey, executive director of the Little Traverse Conservancy in Harbor Springs and member of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on State Parks and Outdoor Recreation. “Our area is known for the beauty of its lakes, forests, and fields, but scenic beauty doesn’t end there. The night sky is a vast wilderness that everyone can enjoy when there is no stray light to interfere with the view.”
To read the rest of this article and learn more about the Dark Sky Coast bill, click here.