Outdoor Lighting Forum


OLF Mission Statement
To research and disseminate information on good outdoor lighting practices, to promote lighting that is efficient, offers safety to the public, improves community appearance and protects the night sky environment.


This photo taken in summer 2011 shows Petoskey at night. Even in a small rural community, lighting can have a big impact on the skies above.
Photo by Robert de Jonge

Following is some history about dark skies in Emmet County and Northern Michigan, and why protection matters …

The background on protecting the dark

The Outdoor Lighting Forum was established in the early 2000s to raise awareness about dark skies, light pollution and good outdoor lighting, in part owing to statistics from the International Dark Sky Association which show that nearly one-third of all light used at night across the U.S. is wasted because it is spilling up into the sky where it is not needed. This amount of light translates into $2.2 billion spent every year on light and energy that is being needlessly wasted, according to Mary Stewart Adams, OLF member and Program Director at the International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, 2 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City.

The Outdoor Lighting Forum’s efforts were bolstered in 2011 when Emmet County became home to one of only a handful of internationally-designated dark sky parks, at the Headlands property. The success of the Headlands designation inspired 2012 legislation passed by the State of Michigan that protected an additional 23,000 acres of state-owned land in Emmet County, which is now pending amendment to include an additional 13,000 acres on the northeast side of the Lower Peninsula.

In addition, the state’s land conservancy organizations are writing dark sky language into their easements, the State Park system now includes night sky programming in its menu of services, and the National Park Service Night Skies Division is getting the National Park Service properties in our Great Lakes region involved with protecting their inherent, natural darkness, both at Sleeping Bear and Arcadia Dunes to the South, and Hiawatha National Forest in the U.P., Adams noted.

Additionally in Michigan there are 38 planetariums for viewing the night sky from inside a dome, which makes it accessible during the day and inclement weather; there are 22 registered astronomy clubs; and there are 12 observatories, slewing their telescopes for looking deep into the night sky from Michigan. The last comet to be discovered by a human being in the 20th century was by Patrick Stonehouse from his rooftop observatory in Wolverine, Michigan.

Further, Michigan was the first state in the U.S. to protect its natural dark skies of its own volition at Lake Hudson State Park in the 1990s. This was around the time that the Emmet County Parks and Recreation Department was expanded with the purchase of the Headlands property from the McCormick Family Foundation.

“Fewer than 15 years later, we find ourselves locally at the leading edge of a global conversation about artificial light at night, where we can demonstrate how to get active about restoring habitat, enhancing the natural beauty of our area, and reducing the waste of resources,” Adams said.

Because of these efforts, many businesses and organizations in the region, and homeowners, have taken the call to protect the dark to heart and have begun marketing themselves as “home to the Headlands Dark Sky Park,” and other descriptions recognizing the importance of protecting the night sky.


For more information on the following topics, click on the links below:

Visibility: Defined by lighting levels, uniformity, luminance and glare

Glare: The biggest lighting problem

What is Emmet County’s Lighting Ordinance?

Emmet County’s economic well-being is heavily dependent upon the resort and tourist industry. This makes preserving the visual quality of the nighttime experience critical to Emmet County. To read the county’s Lighting Ordinance, Sect. 22.06, click here.

Additional lighting resource:

International Dark Sky Association
IDA Inc., 3225 N. First Ave., Tucson, AZ 85719-2103
Telephone: (520) 293-3198 or go to: www.darksky.org


Emmet County, Michigan
200 Division Street, Petoskey MI 49770
(231) 348-1700 | Contact Us