2017-03-30 / Front Page

Dark Sky Park Earns State Award

By Erich T. Doerr

Mackinaw City’s Headlands International Dark Sky Park has received the distinguished 2017 Pure Award from the state’s Pure Michigan advertising campaign in recognition of its practices to preserve Michigan’s natural, cultural, and heritage-based resources. Headlands Program Director Mary Stewart Adams was presented with the award by Michigan Travel Commission Chair and The Henry Ford Executive Vice President Christian Overland during the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism Tuesday, March 21, in the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center.

“It’s quite an honor,” Ms. Adams told The St. Ignace News. “The Pure Michigan campaign has a wonderful reputation and to be recognized by them is very gratifying…We are very, very grateful.”

The Headlands is just the second recipient of the Pure Award. The inau- gural award in 2016 was presented to the Grand Haven Salmon Festival.

“We are delighted that The Headlands International Dark Sky Park is this year’s 2017 Pure Award recipient and we hope this recognition helps promote the terrific stewardship and tourism experiences the Headlands provides in the Great State of Michigan,” Mr. Overland said in a release.

The award comes as the Headlands prepares to open its new Waterfront Event Center and observatory this summer. A special case will be built inside the center so the Pure Award can be displayed to the public at the park. The grand opening of the observatory is set for June 22.

Work has begun to develop an educational program for regional schoolchildren using the new building. The goal is to bring students to the park’s observatory in the future to use the technology and opportunities it offers to study a variety of topics, including basic astronomy and its development throughout history, the humanities, cultural history, and the environment.

Michigan’s Statewide Astronomy Night will be Friday, April 7, with the Dark Sky Park marking the occasion by offering visitors their first look at the telescope for its new observatory. The building isn’t finished yet, but the event will offer guests a look inside parts of the structure, focusing on its observatory. Those attending should be aware the property is still a construction site. Ms. Adams recommends that all attending the preview dress warmly in case the building fills to capacity and they have to wait outside for access.

“For our initiative at Headlands to be recognized and awarded by the campaign is really gratifying because it increases our visibility both as a tourism destination, and as a conscientious community,” Ms. Adams said.

The Michigan Recreation and Park Association previously honored the park for its innovative programming. Ms. Adams received two awards for her work at the park in 2012, a Dark Sky Defender Award from the International Dark Sky Association and the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council’s Environmentalist of the Year honors.

The actual Pure Award presented to the Headlands was custom designed and made for them by artisan glass blowers at the Henry Ford. It is a stylized glass version of the Headland’s logo with a with silver leaf embellishments, a seamless piece of glass meant to represent the North Star and the Milky Way.

“This award affirms the essential public service provided by the Parks and Recreation Department of Emmet County, and it is really a celebration of the entire county parks system,” Emmet County Parks and Recreation Director Laurie Gaetano said in a release. “It takes our whole team to achieve such an award and we’re really grateful to the industry experts on the Michigan travel and tourism committee for this recognition.”

“Travel spending in our Emmet County communities supports local businesses and jobs, and this award is a terrific affirmation of how well we are managing the natural resources of our area, both for our local communities and for the thousands of visitors that travel here every year,” County Administrator Marty Krupa said.

The State of Michigan funds the Pure Michigan campaign with a budget of $34 million each year. The investment is paying dividends for the state, it reports, with about $8.33 coming into the state for every dollar going out in advertising. Reports during this year’s conference stated the campaign led to 5 million trips to Michigan in 2016, netting an estimated $1.5 billion for local businesses.

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