Lawless Park to celebrate Michigan Dark Sky Awareness Month by opening on weekend nights

VANDALIA — Cass County stargazers now can view the night sky at a local International Dark-Sky Park.

The Cass County Parks Board recently set a Dark-Sky nighttime schedule at Dr. T.K. Lawless Park, located on Monkey Run Street in Vandalia. To encourage viewing of the night sky, the park will be open for nighttime hours typically one weekend per month. In celebration of Michigan Dark Sky Awareness Month, the park will host nighttime hours every weekend in July.

The nighttime viewing schedule comes after the Dr. T.K. Lawless Park was designated an International Dark Sky Park earlier this year by the International Dark-Sky Association.

The association provides parks, communities and places with Dark-Sky designations to applicants that fulfill the required criteria, including achieving Dark-Sky friendly lighting, advocating for the protection of the night sky, having appropriate light readings and more.

Dr. T.K. Lawless Park is one of fewer than 100 Dark-Sky Parks worldwide.

Robert Parrish, parks board member and Dark-Sky advocate, said he hopes the new nighttime viewing schedule will allow Cass County residents to view and appreciate the night sky.

The nighttime viewing schedule began last month. Due to weather conditions, the park was only able to stay open for one evening, but Parrish said that the first night was well received and showed promise.

“I think it went really well,” he said. “We decided to go into the schedule with baby steps, normally one weekend per month, aligning with the new moon. We are trying things on for size, but if things continue to go well, we may offer more time next year when we are a bit more experienced.”

The standout moment from the first nighttime viewing at the park for Parrish was when a young boy came up to him to ask to peek through his telescope. When the boy did and saw a clear image of Saturn, Parrish said the boy turned to his mother and asked for a telescope for his birthday.

Now, Parrish hopes the nighttime schedule at the park can create a love of the stars and the night sky for many Cass County residents.

“You are creating that spark,” he said. “I want to make a future where the night sky is appreciated and to show kids what they are missing from their homes because light pollution obscures the sky. I remember loving the clear night sky when I was younger. I’m hoping I can bring some of that back and bring it back for other people.”

The 2020 Dr. T.K. Lawless Park nighttime schedule is as follows:

  • Until 2 a.m. every weekend in July in celebration of Michigan Dark Sky Awareness Month
  • Until 1 a.m. Aug. 11-12 for viewing of the Perseid Meteor Shower
  • Until 2 a.m. Aug. 21-22
  • Until 2 a.m. Sept. 18-19
  • Until midnight Oct. 16-17
  • Until midnight Nov. 13-14
  • Until midnight Dec. 18-19

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