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Lights out for Dark Sky Park: Proposal, efforts stalled after years, organizers say

This mid-October view of the Northern Lights on Presque Isle is an example of a view at what would have been Marquette’s Dark Sky Park. Efforts to create a permanent such park, though, have ended. (Photo courtesy of Larry Buege)

MARQUETTE — It appears the effort to create a Dark Sky Park in Marquette is over.

The Marquette Astronomical Society in 2016 proposed making part of the west end of Presque Isle a Dark Sky Park where lights would be kept to a minimum so stars and other astronomical bodies could be seen more clearly.

“The first big hurdle is that it’s dark enough here,” MAS member Scott Stobbelaar said at the time. “Even with the city and street lights that are on now and so forth, we have taken a dark reading out here, and the reading is within what the Dark Sky Association wants as a dark sky, so we were pleased with that.”

The 2019 closure of the Presque Isle Power Plant even helped out with the dark sky situation.

“The lights at the power plant are now dark, making the real estate at Presque Isle even more valuable as a Dark Sky Park,” said MAS member Larry Buege in a Friday email.

However, he said the MAS persisted for several years with the support of Marquette residents and many influential organizations.

Buege said there would have been no increased risk of injury or vandalism, although some city officials expressed concern at the beginning of the project over safety issues.

The park did receive support from the city, with the Marquette City Commission having approved two trial periods for the Dark Sky Park.

Also, Buege said the two recently elected members of the Marquette City Commission, Evan Bonsall and Andrew Lorinser, offered strong support for the park.

“Andrew Lorinser even thought it worthy of an up or down vote by the commission,” Buege said. “Prospects looked good for the park. Then Lorinser resigned and the coronavirus closed the park for all use.”

Since then, warm weather has begun, “and we are no closer to a park than we were several years ago,” he said.

However, Buege said that during the “long debate,” several Dark Sky Parks have opened in Lower Michigan.

“Any Marquette resident who wishes to visit a Dark Sky Park will have to travel downstate where they take their dark skies seriously,” he said.

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

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