Duluth site earns certification

DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota’s only national park has been certified as an International Dark Sky Park “for the exceptional quality of its dark night skies and the park’s commitment to preserving darkness and educating the public about this outstanding resource,” the International Dark Sky Association has announced.

Voyageurs National Park joins just 135 other locations around the world that have been recognized by the nonprofit in the past two decades. While the certification carries no legal authority, it helps ensure the park protection.

“It’s one of those things that we just take for granted,” said park Superintendent Bob DeGross, a Wisconsin native. “It’s just slowly whittled away without a lot of attention or fanfare or angst toward it ... until suddenly you can’t see 90% of the stars in the sky.”

The yearslong effort of the federal park and the nonprofit that supports it, Voyageurs Conservancy, will see that every effort is made to use lighting that has the lowest impact on the nocturnal ecosystem and that visitors and others learn the importance of darkness. Many lighting fixtures at the park will be changed and light levels will be measured annually.

“We’re fortunate that we’re starting off with some very dark skies,” said Christina Hausman Rhode, executive director of Voyageurs Conservancy. “Getting the certification isn’t a one-and-done thing. You’re committing to really engaging the public in this work, too.”

The park, east of International Falls along the Canadian border, joins the company of 61 other U.S. national parks, including the Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree.

National parks offer free days

Of the more than 400 national parks, monuments, historical sites, seashores, trails, rivers, lakes and other public lands managed by the U.S. National Park Service, roughly one-quarter usually charge admission fees.

That’s over 100 sites scattered across 36 states, including some of the most well-attended natural reserves in the country — Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, Everglades, Denali, Zion and more. Many of them normally charge entry fees of up to $35 per vehicle.

But, each year, the federal government designates several days when entrance fees are waived for all visitors at every single NPS site. The number of free-admission days varies from year to year.

For 2021, six fee-free dates have been announced:

• Jan. 18: Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.

• April 17: First day of National Park Week.

• Aug. 4: One-year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act.

• Aug. 25: National Park Service’s 105th birthday.

• Sept. 25: National Public Lands Day.

• Nov. 11: Veterans Day.

The waiver applies to admission fees only, and won’t cover charges for other amenities such as campsites, boat launches, transportation, parking, special tours or other activities (many of which are operated by private vendors).

Hawaii cuts quarantine length

Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed a new emergency proclamation shortening the amount of time travelers must quarantine when visiting the Islands.

The new order changes the number of days from 14 to 10, in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation. The order took effect Thursday.

“A 10-day self-quarantine period allows us to control the spread of COVID-19 in the community while balancing the need to address the mental and emotional health issues caused by isolation, to improve compliance, and to lessen the economic hardship for those unable to return to work. We will continue to assess the situation and make decisions based on evidence and the advice of our health experts,” said Ige.

The 17th emergency proclamation will be in effect until Feb. 14, which is 60 days from the date of the governor’s signature.

From news services