City approves Dark Sky Park

Trial period would run through October

MARQUETTE — Although it was less than originally proposed, the Marquette Astronomical Society’s idea for a Dark Sky Park at Presque Isle Park is a reality.

The Marquette City Commission Monday unanimously approved a trial period for the park, which would extend the park hours for the southwest portion of Presque Isle on Fridays and Saturdays through October.

On these nights, the two gates for the drive around the park — one at the gazebo and one at the pavilion — would be locked at 11 p.m. and the area beyond the gates closed. However, people would be allowed to drive to the pavilion and view the night sky from that area until 1 a.m.

Current city park hours are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The MAS about a year ago proposed a permanent Dark Sky Park at Presque Isle to give the public a chance to view the night sky free from city lights. However, city officials had expressed safety and vandalism concerns should the park be open that late, which had stalled the project.

The Presque Isle Park Advisory Committee and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board recently had recommended the proposal for the commission’s consideration.

MAS members first laid out their case for a Dark Sky Park more than a year before Monday’s decision.

“This is a result of many months of dialogue,” said MAS member Larry Buege, an outspoken advocate of the park, following the commission’s approval. “I hope people will visit the park this October. The Marquette Astronomical Society will have telescopes available for visitors to see the rings on Saturn and the moons on Jupiter.”

No city funds are expected to be incurred with the new Dark Sky Park. Also, the Marquette Police Department has agreed to monitor the park during the trial period.

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Baldini acknowledged that although there had been a great deal of discussion about liability, the Dark Sky Park is good for the city.

“I’m glad to see we could come to some resolution and that we’ll have some time to work on this now, and probably to evaluate it and see where we go with it for next year,” Baldini said.

Commissioner Mike Plourde said safety concerns at Presque Isle are real, so care had to be taken with creating the Dark Sky Park.

“I think it’s a great start, and I want to see also how it’s going to turn out in the end,” Plourde said. “I think it’s going to turn out very well, and I’m looking forward to seeing it expand.”

Mayor Dave Campana said the Dark Sky Park would provide an educational opportunity for youngsters and adults.

“How can you be against that?” Campana said. “We’ll find out at the end of October.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.