2020 hasn’t offered much in the way of nightlife, but one park in Cass County, Michigan did add something new to the scene this year.
Dr. T.K. Lawless Park is celebrating its first year as an International Dark Sky Park, a designation it gained at the end of last year.
Becoming an International Dark Sky Park is not easy. All of the lighting has to be a particular color temperature, and park officials have to educate visitors on the dangers of light pollution.
Dr. Lawless is only the second park in Michigan to achieve the title, after two and a half years of preparation and a 66-page application.
“I tell everybody that was more than my master’s thesis," said Robert Parrish, Cass County Parks and Recreation Department board member.
Parrish is also a delegate to the International Dark Sky Association – he presented the Dark Sky Park to the board as a way to honor his late father.
“So I lost my dad about three years ago, and my dad taught me quite a bit about stars and constellations,” Parrish said.
After six months of planning and renovations, the park officially opened in June, on Father’s Day weekend. Parrish said attendance has been up on nights when the Dark Sky Park is open, especially as families look for pandemic-friendly evening activities.
“People are looking for a place where they can go outside and have a good time," he said. "We’re also of the opinion that nature can be just as beautiful at night.”
Good as it was for attendance, Parrish said the pandemic cancelled a lot of the activities the parks department had planned for the park. In 2021, he said they hope to offer musical events, starlight yoga, and astro-photography classes.
Despite 2020’s obstacles, Parrish said he’s happy to have provided a new way for the community to enjoy nature. He thinks his father would have liked it, too.
“I think he would be extremely proud, really," Parrish said. "I think he’d be very humbled by it, too.”
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