‘Winter Nights’ brings snow and starlight to Cass county

Published 11:17 am Wednesday, February 9, 2022

By JAMES NELDON

Leader Publications Contributor

 

Families looking for a different take on winter fun are getting the opportunity to do so, as the Cass County Parks Department is hosting its Winter Nights event at the Dr. Lawless International Dark Sky Park. The third, and currently last, event of its kind scheduled so far this year, children and parents alike are invited to explore the winter scenery of Michigan in a whole new way.

“It’s a unique opportunity,” said Scott Wyman, director of the Cass county parks department. “To have fun out in nature, during the winter, and then you throw in being underneath the lights, it is kind of cool.”

With a $2 admission fee, winter activities like innertube sledding, bobsled rides and cross country skiing are all available for visitors to experience with the stars in view. The parks department also offers free innertube rentals for sledding as part of the general admission. This has led to previous Winter Nights reaching 100 to 200 visitors for the park.

In addition to the outdoor activities, there will also be Valentine’s themed arts and crafts projects for children in the park’s community room. A bonfire and warming stations will also be available for visitors to stay safe and warm, alongside purchasable s’mores kits and concessions provided by the Friends of Cass County Parks.

One special activity that sets Winter Nights apart, however, is its dark sky viewing experience. With Dr. Lawless Park being one of only two dark sky parks in the state of Michigan, it gives its visitors the chance to see the winter sky in full view with zero light pollution. This was a joint effort in part of the parks department as well as dark sky ambassador Robert Parrish, in a nearly three-year effort to make Dr. Lawless Park into an international Dark Sky Park.

“He (Parrish) was the one that was instrumental in getting Dr. Lawless to become a dark sky international park.” Wyman said. “I think that is the most unique thing we have to offer.”

Parrish has also been a guest and brought his telescope to previous Winter Nights, allowing children the opportunity to gaze at the night sky and see stars and constellations up close.

While the allure of exploring winter scenes at night is a feature of the event, all activities mentioned are also available to experience during the day as well. The parks department also allows opportunities for bird watching and ice fishing during the daytime at multiple parks within the county, including Arthur Dodd Park in Niles. There is also winter horseback riding available at Russ Forest County Park, an equestrian park located in Decatur.

The standard hours of Dr. T.K. Lawless International Dark Sky Park are from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and the Winter Nights event is scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday.