The genesis of the idea came as my friend Wes Boyd and I had
coffee one morning.
Some years earlier, a development company had purchased
farms which, together,
contained three small natural ponds, all spring-fed, but with a nearby
stream. The purchase
was about 2,500 acres. The company designed a 500 acre lake, to be fed
which "ate" the existing ponds after the stream was dammed.
About the time the company was prepared to start selling
sites, the State of Michigan
changed the rules relative to sewage, which suddenly required the
rather than having homeowners put in individual septic tanks as they
built their homes.
The company essentially abandoned the site and the
I began to lobby (for) the State
of Michigan to buy it, which eventually happened---I have no idea if my
to do with that decision.
At any rate, the state originally declared the entire parcel,
which did not have so much as one
house on it (in a fairly populous county, and with the sky-glow
from Ann Arbor,
Toledo, and some cities to the west clearly visible) as, I think, a
Recreation Area, which is a
euphemism for "undeveloped, but okay to hike or hunt."
Later, the state decided to add a state park within the
guess is, about 1/3 of the land.
It was at this point that Wes and I began to talk about
site declared a Dark Sky
Preserve, which was a term we came up with on our own, not knowing if
anyone else had
created such a thing, but knowing about the many efforts in Tucson, San
Diego and other areas
maintain dark skies. We were both avid amateur astronomers.
As the development of the State Park progressed, we
Tim Walberg. Actually, we shanghaied him---and took him to
the planetarium at
College to show him, using the rim lights, the dramatic effects of
skyglow on the night
fortunately, had fished on lakes in the much-darker northern parts of
Michigan, so he understood
immediately and agreed to help us out.
I drafted a proposed piece of legislation that would have
any unshielded light within the
confines of the state owned land, and would further require shielding
any new or
lighting within a radius of something like 15 miles, even on private
Tim refused that version, thinking it would have no chance of
success. He had the House bill
writers draft a new version that covered only the lands within the
Tim, with lots of testifying through various committees by
me, managed to get the bill
through the house, and later, it went through the senate and the
governor signed it
During this lengthy legislative process, Wes and I were also
lobbying the Michigan Natural
Resources Commission (MNRC) to adopt similar rules for ALL state owned
for parks and recreation areas. Our hidden agenda was to get them
to shield the
lights on a then
brand-new prison in Adrian, just a few miles from the Lake Hudson
site. We were
finally able to
get on the agenda of a MNRC meeting in Muskegon, on the coast of Lake
Michigan. We lined
the Muskegon Astronomy Club to be there in numbers to support us.
We were only given 5
minutes to present our case, which I did.
When I finished my spiel, the chairman basically scoffed at the idea
and was ready to pass on it.
He said something like, "I don't think anyone in Michigan would be
in this idea." At
which point Wes and I asked permission to come forward. We were
able to hand him a
the brand new law, and the pen with which the Governor had signed the
Lake Hudson Dark Sky
Act into law that very morning, in Lansing. The timing was a
to say, that got the attention of the Commission which, a few weeks
adopted the terms of
the Act for all state parks and game areas (not prisons!)
I do not think they have done much to enforce that, and I
don't know if it was ever revoked,
but at least it started people thinking.
The original act had a 10 year sunset clause, which was added
compromise in the early stages.
With a lot of work, the Jackson Astronomy Club was able to remove the
the act expired, so it is now permanent.
The site has been very popular. Even though I have put
astronomy on the back burner for the past
8 years, I know that several clubs from around Michigan have used it
and it is not unusual
to go out to the site at night and find a number of telescopes in
use. But, best
of all, and most
important, are probably those people who are camping or night fishing
out there and don't even
it is a protected sky, but who enjoy looking up and seeing the Milky
You can find more info
by Googling "Lake Hudson Dark Sky Preserve"