Rurally located in north central Indiana and centered between four local small cities/towns with Warsaw 20 miles to the east, Plymouth approximately the same distance to the west, Rochester to the south and Bremen the same distance to the north and farther yet South Bend/Mishawaka to the north of Bremen, Potawatomi Wildlife Park is uniquely positioned to offer relatively dark skies for the region. Classified as Class 4-4.5 (Rural/suburban transition) skies utilizing the Bortle classification, the faintest seeing on an excellent night is between 6th and 7th magnitude.
Comprised of 300+ acres of upland woods, wetland areas and river bottom, and surrounded by farm land, the property is a not-for-profit nature park managed as a wildlife refuge. Potawatomi Wildlife Park is open dawn to dusk year round with the exception of youth group camping on the property and amateur astronomers observing after dark. Because of the lack of individual campers, the property is optimal for observing at night lacking such intrusions as vehicle headlights, campfires, and other light sources that would interfere with night vision adaptation.
Park/Preserve Management Structure
Potawatomi Wildlfie Park is guided by a volunteer board and is managed by an "Executive Director". His duties are to oversee the day to day activities at the park. The current Director is an amateur astronomer and therefore approachable by those in the hobby. Potawatomi Wildlife Park's operations are funded through donations and income earned through investments. Amatuers are encouraged to financiall support our mission.
The current observing field is north of the main parking lot and is accessible to vehicles pending ground conditions for those who run power from their vehicles. Electrical outlets are available in the main parking lot located south of the observing site for those who need it. General park attendance is mainly from individuals, and groups such as schools that visit the property. Facilities include restrooms adjacent to the parking/observing area which includes a pop machine and drinking fountain, a small nature center, amphitheater, and a small fire ring pavilion.
Development of the Dark Sky Preserve
The current Executive Director of Potawatomi Wildlife Park, being a member
of the Warsaw Astronomical Society, saw an opportunity in the mid 1990's to
take advantage of the park's perceived dark viewing situation and invited members
of the Warsaw club to utilize the property for dark sky observing secessions.
With the site of the Warsaw clubs' observatory suffering from major light pollution,
the society formed a "new moon group" and made the park the site for
their dark sky observing sessions.
The management of the park, seeing the value of the observing opportunities and with the support of the governing board of directors, made steps to manage the property as a "dark sky preserve". To make the property observer friendly, all barn yard style security lights were removed early on. Other steps were also taken to make the property more dark sky friendly. The property is recognized as Indiana's first Dark-Sky Preserve by the Indiana Council on Lighting Education (ICOLE), The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), and the Indiana State Senate (Resolution #7, 3/31/03). No current county ordinance exists to address light pollution. The park is managed as a DSP through internal management policies.
Current Lighting Conditions on the Property
Currently the only public dawn to dusk lighting that exists on the property is fully shielded in the case of one Regency brand model RSM100 security fixture lighting the restroom area. Sofit lighting also exist, lighting the one sidewalk leading to the nature center with minimum wattage lighting. A memorial containing three flag poles is lit with two narrow spot lights that has a dimmer switch in-line to produce only adequate lighting to illuminate the flags but not light the sky.
In the case of the flag memorial, the Regency security light, and the sofit sidewalk lighting, a breaker panel is mounted at the flag pole memorial that trips all outside lighting when observing is conducted making the observing site 100% free of all outside lighting. This is done only during winter observing secessions as the outling observing field is far enough away from the parking lot that the minimal lighting is not a factor.
A fire-ring facility also has a Glarebuster and a shielded light under the small adjoining shelter. All future development plans for additional buildings call for "dark sky" friendly lighting mainly in the form of sofit lighting.
While the director's residence is located on the property, most interior lighting from the managers' residence is blocked by blinds. Outside lighting for the residence is motion activated.
Commitment to Light Pollution Prevention on the Property
In a past vote, the Board of Directors of Potawatomi Wildlife Park voted to continue the management of the property as a "dark sky preserve" committing to the continuation of steps to preserve the night time ascetics of the property as well as encouraging the utilization of the property by amateur astronomers
Who is Observing at the Park
To date, the property has been utilized by members of the Warsaw Astronomical society, Michiana Astronomical Society, Wabash Valley Astronomical Society, Calumet Astronomical Society, Ft. Wayne Astronomical Society, Chicago Astronomical Society, local hobbyist, and high school astronomy classes. Additional inquiries have been made by individuals from both inside Indiana as well as surrounding states.
Inquiries about observing opportunities can be e-mailed to park@GetIntoNature.com. A dark-sky
clock., providing a weather forcast for observers, can also be on the park's
website. The "Star Gazing" section of the web site under "activities"
contains the clock as well as GIF maps of Indiana and other pollution related
©2014 Potawatomi Park, Inc.