PARRISH: Enjoy the night sky during Dark Sky Awareness Month

The lucky stars thank you! That may sound discombobulated, but the intention is correct. Both the Cass County commissioners and the Michigan Senate have passed resolutions making the month of July “Dark Sky Awareness Month.” Related to these actions, the foresight of the village of Cassopolis also deserves recognition for choosing dark sky friendly lighting as part of their downtown renovation. Combined, these actions deliver to the lucky citizens of Cass County multiple benefits.

From a financial standpoint, the use of proper dark sky lighting saves energy. Not only does this help the environment but also reduces electrical expenditures. To achieve savings, modern LED lighting is the ticket. Just be mindful to avoid the mistake of over lighting (only use lighting where needed and consider timed fixtures or motion detectors) and employ fixtures that produce a color temperature of 3000k or less. This follows the recommendation of the American Medical Association to reduce a host of medical maladies associated with overexposure to improper lighting.

Astrotourism (yes, it’s a real thing) is another financial plus. For years, tourism has been one of Michigan’s top industries. Michiganders lay claim to a beautiful state. I’ve heard it stated that four out of five Great Lakes prefer Michigan. That preference gives us the longest freshwater coastline in the U.S., excluding Alaska. From lakes great to small, rolling prairies, dense virgin forests and metropolitan cities, Michigan offers changing seasons that allow us to enjoy our natural beauty in a variety of ways.

Now the wonder of the cosmos serves as another natural attraction to bolster our tourism industry. Michigan was the first state in the Union to recognize the importance of protecting our night skies by creating Dark Sky Preserves. A designation Dr. Lawless Park also owns in addition to its International Dark Sky Park status.

But has the attraction of having a certified Dark Sky Park in Cass County been a success? The answer is yes. We’ve drawn visitors from Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Iowa. One memorable visitor came from England. Astrotourism has come to Cass County, yet another piece of ammunition the county can use to tout our peaceful way of life. Cass County is a locale that is never too far from the hustle and bustle of nearby metropolitan areas but well insulated from the same with our many inland lakes, pristine woods, welcoming communities, and clear dark skies.

In celebration of Dark Sky Awareness Month, Dr. Lawless International Dark Sky Park/Michigan Dark Sky Preserve will be open for stargazing every Friday and Saturday night in July, weather permitting. Come on out ,and we will show you that the beauty of Mother Nature does not have to end with the setting Sun. Want to learn more? Just do a Facebook search for Dr. Lawless Dark Sky Park.

Again, many thanks to Senator Kim LaSata and her staff, to the Cass County Commissioners, and the village of Cassopolis. Your actions go a long way to protecting our beautiful night sky. The lucky stars thank you, and so do all the Board Members of the Cass County Parks and Recreation Board and ensuing staff.

Clear Skies!

Robert Parrish is the vice president of the  Cass Co. Parks and Recreation Board and an International Dark Sky Association Delegate.

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