State Park In Door County Gets Designated First Dark Sky Park In State

Newport State Park Joins Group Of 48 Other Parks Worldwide

Photo courtesy of Denny Moutray

Newport State Park in Door County has been designated the first dark sky park in Wisconsin. The title comes from the International Dark Sky Association, an Arizona-based nonprofit that rates places all over the world on how dark they are.

Michelle Hefty has been the superintendent of Newport State Park for nearly three decades. She remembered the first time she saw the night sky at the park, 28 years ago.

“It was just awe inspiring,” she said. “Things are just so much clearer and so much brighter, and you can see so much more of the stars.”

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Newport joins only 13 other parks in the United States to earn the title, and 48 parks worldwide.

In order to measure the degree of darkness of a particular place, the group requires parks to estimate the brightness of the faintest star visible to the naked eye at night, said to John Barentine, program manager at IDA.

Barentine said the group also accepts more subjective impressions of nighttime conditions at the park.

Earning the title took the park approximately two years from start to finish. A process Hefty described as “very long, very arduous.”

“IDA doesn’t just give this designation out to anyone,” she said.

Barentine echoed that point, saying that the park’s status represents a “monumental effort on the part of (Newport State Park) to be proactive in preserving it’s dark skies, but also communicating the value of them to the public.”

Hefty said she thinks the designation will be a big draw for new kinds of tourists to the park.

“For the park, for the Door County communities, it’s huge in that it’s bringing in a different user group — the astronomers, the astronomy buffs,” she said.

Hefty said she hopes that Newport will serve as an example for other parks in the state looking to earn the title.

The park will host a dedication ceremony with the IDA on Thursday, June 22.