COPPER HARBOR – Just outside Copper Harbor, the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge has sat an important piece of Keweenaw County history for nearly a century, and their contributions to the region continued recently with the designation of the Northern Keweenaw Peninsula as an International Dark Sky Park.
The International Dark Sky Association has designated approximately 100 dark sky parks, which according to the IDA, is a “…land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.” On June 6th, the IDA officially endorsed the North Keweenaw to join the ranks of the IDA’s certified parks, joining as the third in the state of Michigan. Now, a little over a month after their designation, and over a year and a half since they first sent in their application, the staff at the lodge move their sights to expanding upon the designation to educate locals and visitors alike on the importance of dark skies.
The Keweenaw park has one major difference compared to many other parks with same designation; as Events and Education Coordinator Tom Oliver puts it, being a “park without boundaries”. Whereas many other dark sky parks around the world will be part of a state or national park, a wildlife refuge, or conservation area, the Keweenaw Park is a general area; the tip of the peninsula. From Eagle River to Copper Harbor, Keweenaw County is the park, and any public park or land will give you a great view of the dark sky. The Lodge itself, based just off US41, south of Copper Harbor, acts as the park headquarters. There, anyone from an astronomer to a stargazer can come and learn about the sky above them.
Outdoor Activities Lead Chris Guibert says they as soon as they got the designation, they already saw a major increase in callers and visitors to the Lodge. “The communications have doubled, and the participation in workshops has increased dramatically. I’ve been in touch with guests or potential guests who have said ‘I’ve always wanted to see the Milky Way’ or ‘I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights’. ” The work now, for Chris and the rest of the lodge, is providing those learning opportunities and reaching out to the community to teach them about protecting the dark sky. Chris says he hopes that communities in the Keweenaw can learn from their efforts and “decide if this is something they can do, make changes to become more dark sky friendly.”
For information on how you can visit the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park, or how you can learn more about how to enjoy and protect dark sky designated zones, you can visit the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge or Dark Sky Association Website.
Feature Image Courtesy of Keweenaw Mountain Lodge.