Voyageurs National Park Certified As International Dark Sky Park

During this International Dark Sky Week, Mike Augustyniak spoke to park superintendent Bob DeGross to learn how you can get involved in the celebration and preservation of the dark sky (4:42) WCCO 4 Saturday Morning - April 10, 2021

Video Transcript

- Minnesota is actually one of the best places in the world to stargaze, and now we have proof. Voyageurs National Park along the Canadian border was recently certified as an International Dark Sky Park for the exceptional quality of its dark night skies and also for the park's commitment to preserving that darkness. During this International Dark Sky week, I talked to park superintendent Bob Degross to learn how you can get involved in the celebration and preservation.

BOB DEGROSS: About 90% of the people in the United States are not able to see an unhindered night sky vista, and so Voyageur's National Park is just a great place to come and take advantage of this spectacular resource that we have. Not only the ability to see the Milky Way like you see in this picture by Eric Fremstad, who submitted this picture to the Voyageur's Conservancy photo contest, but also if you're lucky the potential of seeing northern lights in the lower 48 states as well.

One of our [INAUDIBLE] at the National Park Service is to minimize our impact and our footprint of exterior lighting to the greatest extent possible. So we did a very deep assessment of all of our facilities, our parking lots, our walkways, the exterior lighting on many of our buildings and things like that, and we modified it to ensure that we had the appropriate lighting, that we didn't have an excessive amount of light where it wasn't necessary, that the light was downcast and used to the greatest extent possible rather than just allowing it to escape and potentially impact the natural night sky but also our neighbors and things.

- I would imagine that you, sort of, had to become a dark sky expert over the course of getting certified, and I'm sort of curious is there anything that surprised you through the process or is there anything that you're now applying that you've learned at home.

BOB DEGROSS: Making these changes is so simple, and it's also a restoration effort that saves money, right. When you minimize the amount of lighting that you have, when you reduce the amount of wattage that you're using, ultimately it's putting money back into the consumer's pocket and not wasting it.

- Boy, that's such a great point. You know, I was thinking of the star gazing aspect of it, but there is a money saving aspect to it as well. This is-- we're nearing the end of International Dark Sky week, and I understand that you have something special going on at Voyageurs in honor of that.

BOB DEGROSS: On Monday, April 12 at 4:00 PM, we're going to have Night Sky Explorer Celestial events of April, and we've been working ever since our certification and before our certification with astro Bob from Duluth, who's been doing a variety of different virtual online presentations and programs to connect people with our natural dark sky here in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwest Ontario.

- Indoors have been closed from time to time over the past year, but outdoors has always been open. So is there anything that we need to know current rules wise about visiting national parks.

BOB DEGROSS: The main thing is that we definitely encourage people to wear masks even in outdoor settings where social distancing can't be maintained. But here at Voyageurs National Park with 218,000 acres and a lot of waterfront and water access, people can very easily socially distance from other groups and things like that. But be mindful when you're at those launch sites, the boat launch sites and things like that, just try to maintain your distance, and if you can't, just be sure that you wear a mask.

- Bob said, by the way, he expects that the [INAUDIBLE] basin will probably be icing out this weekend so another sign of spring there. I posted a ton of resources on wwco.com/links, including a sign up for the free virtual celebration of dark sky week that he mentioned, also information on national parks week, which starts in a week. Plus if you go to my Facebook page right now, you can learn more about how light pollution affects not just stargazing but also nature's own rhythms. And those of us on morning shows know all about light pollution, but it's an important topic that gets lost in the shuffle.

- It is, and it also is one of those things like for the past year, we've all, kind of-- I think most of us, right, have tried to explore things that are a little bit more local. Voyageurs is not exactly local for most people in Twin Cities, but it's cool to just see that it's within the state's borders.

- Yeah, and I mean, it's always there. It's open 365 days a year. So your next trip if you want to stay local, localish, there you go.

- There you go.