Headlands/Dark Sky Park news and events

Headlands wins Innovative Programming Award from Michigan Parks and Recreation Association!


 Dec. 23, 2014 -- The Michigan Recreation and Parks Association has awarded Emmet County’s Headlands International Dark Sky Park with one of its top annual recognitions: The Innovative Recreation Programming award. The award will be presented to Emmet County representatives Feb. 11, 2015, in Lansing.

“This is a tremendous honor to be recognized for our unique approach in interpreting the night sky and offering unparalleled programming to our guests at the Headlands,” said Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director. “We consciously and consistently make an effort to come from a humanities-centered approach when teaching and entertaining about the night sky, to demonstrate how the sciences and the humanities work together, rather than against each other as disciplines. Guests to our programs get the magic and mystery of the night sky while they observe celestial wonders from one of the most beautiful places anywhere: In a rugged wilderness in Northwest Michigan.”

In May 2011, the Headlands became one of just 10 International Dark Sky Parks in the world at that time, joining the likes of vast, protected parkland in the U.S. desert areas and overseas in Hungary and Scotland. Since that time, numerous other regions of the United States and the world have applied for designation to the International Dark Sky Association in Tucson, Ariz., as more and more communities realize the importance of protecting the night sky from the harmful effects of light pollution.

The fact that Emmet County Parks and Recreation has been a leader in that movement is a point of pride for Parks and Recreation Director Laurie Gaetano.

“It means a lot to us to be recognized by our peers for the hard work that goes into providing regular programs at the Headlands,” Gaetano said. “We strive for excellence in everything that we do, and it’s important to us that our park visitors have a memorable experience and that Emmet County becomes a place they tell friends about and a place they plan to return to year after year. We take great pride in clean, safe parks that are open to the public at no charge, like the Headlands.

“Congratulations to our entire staff who helped Emmet County earn this prestigious award.”

Programs take place at the Headlands monthly, and multiple times per month in the summer and fall months. The 2015 program schedule includes a number of celestial highlights including meteor showers, guest speakers, owl-banding conservation efforts, and nature hikes through the trails at the 600-acre park two miles west of downtown Mackinaw City. The star of the show is always the night sky.

“We continually hear from our visitors – many who come from hundreds of miles away, and others who live in the region – that they had forgotten about the beauty that is held in a deep, dark sky. We are reigniting that interest in people and shepherding a movement from home base in Emmet County where night sky protection is an environmental necessity and also a form of recreation,” said Gaetano.

In a recent report to the Emmet County Board of Commissioners, Adams cited traffic counter statistics from July through October that showed more than 26,000 visitors came through the Headlands, which indicates its status as an economic driver for the region as well.

Little Traverse Conservancy executive director Tom Bailey said, "I'm delighted to see Emmet County's Dark Sky program receive this award for Innovative Recreation Programming. The program is truly unique among International Dark Sky Parks worldwide, and Mary Stewart Adams deserves credit for creating something truly remarkable."

Bailey, whose undergraduate degree is in environmental interpretation, has worked in the past for the US National Park Service and added, "I've been involved in parks and recreation in one way or another since the early 1970s, and this is the single most engaging, effective program I've seen.  The numbers of people who are drawn to participate speak for themselves."

In 2015, Headlands visitors can expect the same exceptional programming opportunities at the Headlands, as well as some construction going on. The County is embarking on construction of a new program and restroom facility, gathering space and observatory to meet the tremendous public demand at the park.

“We expect interest in the Headlands to continue to grow. It is Michigan’s only International Dark Sky Park, and the only one situated on a body of water, Lake Michigan,” said Emmet County Administrator Marty Krupa. “The vision of the Board of Commissioners protected a valuable natural resource and at the same time created a program unique to the region. It has truly been a remarkable experience for all of us to be part of, and we’re grateful to the MRPA for recognizing Emmet County’s commitment to our parks.”

One of the most unique aspects of Headlands programs is that they are always free and take place rain, snow or shine. Only once or twice a year are reservations required, when the topic deals with sensitive Headlands habitats.

The 2015 Dark Sky Park program schedule is now available in print and online. Visit www.emmetcounty.org/darkskypark/ for to view it and other information about the Headlands, including how to rent the 22-person Guest House on the property.  To have complimentary park and area information mailed to you, contact Emmet County Director of Communications Beth Anne Eckerle at (231) 348-1704 or email beckerle@emmetcounty.org

As part of its commitment to educating the public, Emmet County and Adams produce a regular video email blast. To register, email darksky@emmetcounty.org.  To ask questions of Adams about Dark Sky Park programs, call (231) 348-1713.

Headlands Challenge, Triple Fright Night, draw hundreds to Northern Emmet

Mary Stewart Adams (in green cape) captivates the audience with storytelling during the Headlands Challenge.

At least 400 guests took part in the annual Headlands Challenge event Oct. 27 at the International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City. Nearby McGulpin Point Lighthouse and Mackinaw Heritage Village also hosted free family-friendly events that evening, helping to draw large crowds to the northern part of the County.

This is the fourth year that the County has hosted the Headlands Challenge, where visitors are dared to walk the approximately 1-mile drive from the Headlands entrance to the Beach House, where Destiny is waiting to spin tales of fortune for each visitor. Destiny - aka Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director - entertained the crowds with story- and fortune-telling. Outside, telescopes recently purchased by the County for the park were set up for visitors to view celestial objects.

"Every year this event continues to grow and we are thrilled to be able to offer such unique programs to Emmet County residents and visitors," said Laurie Gaetano, Parks and Recreation Director.

Click here for more photos of the Triple Fright Night fun!

USA Today names Headlands one of the top places in the world for dark sky viewing

Readers of USA Today's Oct. 11, 2012, edition got a glimpse into the beauty of the undiluted night sky above the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in northwest Emmet County, as it was named one of the top places in the world for dark-sky viewing.

The article's author writes, "As population spreads, we're losing the ability to see the stars, says Bob Parks, executive director of the Tuscon-based International Dark-Sky Association (darksky.org), which certifies recreation areas and communities that have minimized light pollution. Parks will join astronomers and other experts next week in Chile for Noche Zero, a conference about the night skies. He shares with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY locations that have worked to preserve their view of the heavens:"

About Emmet County, it was noted: "This park on the Straits of Mackinac won dark-sky recognition last year and already offers a full calendar of public astronomy programs. The efforts show that dark skies are a natural resource that can increase tourism, Parks says. "They've done a remarkable job of outreach to people who didn't know it was there."

Emmet County joins places like Texas, Utah, Namibia, Scotland, Maine and Montana as extraordinary dark sky places. To read the complete article, click here.

The next free program at the Headlands takes place Oct. 27, during the 4th annual Headlands Challenge. Click here for details about this one-of-a-kind event at this park that is out of this world!

See some amazing photos and video from the park

Dark Sky Park featured in Rachael Ray's national magazine

The article appears on page 44.

EveryDay With Rachael Ray magazine's May 2012 issue includes a feature on the International Dark SKy Park at the Headlands in Mackinaw City!

The Emmet County-owned and operated park is included in a feature called, "Rub Elbows With the Stars." The article states, "We've got the secret to a showstopping vacation: Look up. These stargazing locales vary from beach to desert, but all share a sky full of thrilling views."

About the Headlands, writer Peggy Sijswerda notes, "Because artificial light is practically nonexistent here, the stars seem to go on forever -- so much so that the International Dark-Sky Association, an organization dedicated to preserving the nighttime environment, declared the spot one of only 10 official Dark Sky Parks in the world."

She also suggests readers sample the Great Lakes whitefish at Audie's restaurant in Mackinaw City.

The magazine is now available on newstands; the article appears on page 44. Ray is the host of the Food Network TV show that bears her name.

To read the online story, click here.

Dark Sky Park featured in 'Bay Life North' cover story

The Bay Life North March-April 2012 cover.

Emmet County's International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, in Mackinaw City, is featured as the cover story of "Bay Life North," a Traverse City-based magazine. The cover features of a photo illustration by Robert de Jonge, a Petoskey resident and photographer who shot several stunning night shots at the park for the county.

The article features an interview with Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams. "Mary is the leader who initiated this feat, tirelessly working to make this Evening Dream into an Evening Reality. She has literally had her head in the stars for more than 30 years, and she has such a mythical way about her that, after meeting her, you will forever look at the sky differently," wrote the article's author, Teri Gorsline.

"Why do the stars matter so much? Mary believes that the feeling of being "connected to the whole is fundamental for human happiness - to know we are not alone and to say yes to something greater."

To read the complete Bay Life North article, click here.  For more information about the Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, click here.

Emmet among the 'World's Best Spots for Stargazing' according to USA Today

A recent USA Today article titled "The World's Best Spots for Stargazing" offers its readers a roundup of where to enjoy the darkest, most star-filled skies -- and Emmet County is among them. "(The Dark Sky Park) designation is given by the International Dark Sky Association, which relies on a 'vigorous process' to pinpoint locales with exceptional night skies that take pains to preserve the conditions that make them successful," the article's author writes.

To read the complete article, click here.

Dark Sky Park featured in Martha Stewart magazine

The International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, in Northern Emmet County, was recently featured in Martha Stewart's "Whole Living" magazine. The article, titled "Starstruck," begins, "This summer, consider sleeping under a glittering sky untainted by light pollution. These spots are guaranteed to be gorgeous by the International Dark-Sky Association."

The article then lists four Dark Sky Parks (of the six in the United States and nine in the world) including the Headlands. "This 600-acre tree-filled park rests along 2 1/2 miles of northern Lake Michigan, where you can take starry cruises. Rent one of two guest houses to stay the night."

Click here to read the complete article online.


Dark Sky Park making headlines

The United States' newest International Dark Sky Park -- the Headlands, located in Northwest Emmet County -- is continuing to garner national headlines.

The Headlands has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Grand Rapids Press and the Traverse City Record-Eagle. Click on the links below to read the features!

Midwest Living Magazine

Grand Rapids Press

Traverse City Record-Eagle

Hugh McDiarmid Jr. Mitten State Blog

Treehugger (New York City), A Discovery Company

Click here to visit the Dark Sky Park pages within this Web site!


Dark-sky gazers flock to the Headlands Aug. 20

Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams leads the crowd in a celestial tour.

More than 90 dark-sky enthusiasts came to the Headlands on Aug. 20, for the latest in a series of monthly Dark Sky Park events hosted by Emmet County and its Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams.

The "7th Night of the 7th Moon" captivated the crowd, which gathered along the Lake Michigan shoreline beginning around sunset (8:41 p.m.) until well after dark, when the stars of the show emerged overhead.

The next Dark Sky Park program will take place Sept. 12. "Harvest Moon and Star Gazing" will bring guests together under the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox. Bring a chair or blanket and dress warmly. 7-10 p.m.

All Dark Sky Park events are free and open to the public. For more information about upcoming events, click here.

To see a photo album from the Aug. 20 event, click here.

Emmet awarded for Dark Sky Park efforts

County Board chairman James Tamlyn accepts the award from Mary Stewart Adams.

The Outdoor Lighting Forum on Thursday afternoon awarded Emmet County for its efforts to preserve the dark sky and limit pollution at the Headlands park property, located in the northwest section of the county.

The county and its Dark Sky Park committee are currently awaiting word on International Dark Sky Park designation at the Headlands. The county Board of Commissioners has supported, through unanimous resolutions, this designation and also amended lighting ordinance to prevent light from diluting the night sky above the Headlands.

In presenting the award to board chairman James Tamlyn, the event moderator, Mary Stewart Adams -- also a Dark Sky Park committee member -- applauded the county's dedication to preserving the night sky.

"There are only four such Dark Sky Parks in the nation," Adams said. "This award recognizes the county's dedication to protecting one of the last great resources."

The Gary R. Williams Excellence in Outdoor Lighting Awards also went to:

- Robert deJonge, photographer, for his dark sky photos over the Headlands on the night of the total lunar eclipse, Dec. 21-22, 2010.

- The Rehmann Group, Cheboygan, for building and grounds lighting.

- Ian and Sally Bund of Harbor Springs, for their barn lighting retrofit at Angell Farm.

- Peggy's Gardening of Petoskey, for building lighting standards.

Also recognized during the event was OLF founder and member Mary Lou Tanton, for her 12 years of dedicated service locally and statewide in matters regarding efficient use of lighting, consulting and encouraging efficient lighting ordinances and protecting the night sky from unnecessary light pollution.

"She taught me the importance of perservance when you believe in something," said Emily Meyerson, in presenting the award.

Guest speaker at the event was Carolyn McKellar, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Solar System Ambassador for NASA. McKellar is also the 1st Chairman of the Astronomical Association at Northern Michigan College in Traverse City.

For more information about the OLF, click here, or call (231) 348-1735.

Additional event pictures are located in a photo album at the bottom of this page.


Stargazer-students choose Headlands for astronomy studies


A group of homeschooled students and their moms, all from the metro Detroit suburbs, traveled north to spend two days at the Headlands park property to complete their block in astronomy. 

Their host was Mary Stewart Adams, a night-sky expert who is serving on the county’s Dark Sky Park committee, an effort to get International Dark Sky Park designation at the Headlands. 

The group of 14 students, ages 9 to 13, and eight moms arrived on Jan. 27 and spent the first day snowshoeing at the 600-acre Headlands park property, just west of the Village of Mackinaw City.
The students then learned about the solstice and equinox, and Adams guided them in finding the constellations that can be found overhead in January. The group shared a meal and around a bonfire, they listened to the Navajo tale of “How the stars fell into the sky.” 

On the morning of Jan. 28, the group learned the phases of the moon and then took a short trip to nearby McGulpin Point Lighthouse, also owned by Emmet County, for a tour. At the conclusion, the students received Big Dipper Basic certificates, meaning they proved proficient in basic concepts regarding the night sky, including understanding the solstice and equinox, phases of the moon and identification of Northern Hemisphere winter constellations. 

The program also served to further highlight the efforts of the Dark Sky Park committee, which is hoping to have the Headlands designated as one of a just a few International Dark Sky Parks in the world. The group will send out its “Heads up at the Headlands!” application to the International Dark Sky Park Association in Arizona in the next week. The designation does require ongoing educational programming. 

In December 2010, the Board of Commissioners passed a unanimous resolution recognizing the Headlands as a dark sky park locally. 

“I let this group know how historic they were,” Adams said. “They were the first official educational group since the board recognized the Headlands as a dark sky park. The students gave proof to our ongoing commitment to educational programming.” 

More information on the Dark Sky Park designation will continue to be posted on this Web page as it becomes available.

See more photos of the group's visit at the bottom of this page!

Dark Sky Parks gaining national attention

Emmet County is on the cusp of an emerging trend nationwide -- protection of the night sky and preservation of the darkness that allows for unfiltered views of the galatic panorama.

USA Today featured Dark Sky Park momentum in a late-December, 2010, article ... click here to read the article!

Watch a Dark Sky Park interview with Mary Stewart Adams

Mary Stewart Adams discusses the Dark Sky Park effort at the Headlands and a 2010 Extraordinary Eclipse Event at MyNorth.com. Click here to watch the video!

To read about the event, which occured on Dec. 21, 2010, click here.