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Beaver Bay prioritizes 'dark skies' in astro-tourism effort

The Beaver Bay wood water tower could become a "Starry Skies" observation point in the future if the city's "dark skies friendly" initiative is successful. (Photo submitted)

Some North Shore area communities are recognizing "Celebrate the Night Sky" week Sept. 16-22. Although Beaver Bay doesn't have an event planned, the city is taking steps to become a "dark skies friendly" community.

"We don't have an awful lot of light pollution right now," Beaver Bay City Administrator Tim Anderson said. "But we're committed to not increase light pollution and to decrease it as much as we can within our city."

The city has had talks with representatives from Duluth-based Starry Skies Lake Superior, the local chapter of the International Dark Sky Association. The organization is dedicated to increasing awareness of light pollution and appreciation of the night sky by suggesting the implementation of star-friendly outdoor lighting.

"We haven't had a formal assessment, but Randy Larson from Starry Skies came up last year and one of the things he said is that most of our streetlights are mostly within the compliance level," Anderson said. "They aren't the new stark LED lights that cause that harsh brightness."

Although most of the city's streetlights are in compliance, Anderson said there are small steps others in the city could take to reduce their individual light pollution. Residents with house or garage lights are encouraged to use motion sensors, use shields and point the lights more downward to limit the spread of light.

"Even simple things make a difference," Anderson said. "At my house, as I assessed it, I noticed all I really need to do is point my garage light down more, at the building, instead of out onto the street."

The city doesn't currently have a light ordinance, but Anderson said when the city issues building permits, it would inform permit seekers of the city's "dark sky" status.

Water tower to the skies

One of the benefits of becoming a "dark skies friendly" community is the opportunity to become an astro-tourism location.

Astro-tourism is a relatively new travel trend where people seek locations where the night sky can be easily observed. A possible location in Beaver Bay is the old wooden water tower.

The water tower, moved to Beaver Bay in 1956, was in use from 1957-1982. The tower was built by the Soo Line Railroad in Markville, Minn,. and has a 50,000-gallon tank.

"We're trying to figure out what to do with it since it's one of the few remaining wooden water towers in Minnesota and we're trying to preserve it as much as we possibly can," Anderson said. "Our biggest dream would be to use it as an observation tower to see the skies. It's a pipe dream to have people go up in it. But the cost would be exorbitant."

Anderson isn't sure of the water tower's exact height, but he used a 20-foot ladder to reach the bottom rung of the ladder.

"I climbed up it for the first time a few weeks ago," Anderson said. "It was like, holy shmoly. It doesn't look that high when you're on the ground, but it's a ways up there."

The city is fundraising to preserve the tower and to clear away brush and remove trees to make the tower easier to see.

For more information on the Beaver Bay water tower project, contact City Administrator Tim Anderson at

Celebrate the Night Sky Week

For complete schedule, visit

Star Party

  • Sky lore historian Mary Stewart Adams, producer of "The Storyteller's Night Sky," will discuss why stars mean so much to humans. Members of the Arrowhead Astronomical Society will have telescopes. Rain or shine.
  • Sunday, Sept. 16, 6-11 p.m.
  • Oldenburg House, 604 Chestnut Ave., Carlton.
  • Free.

"Astronomy for Everyone" Community Education class with astronomy guru Bob King, who will discuss fall constellations and seasonal planets Saturn, Jupiter and Mars.

  • Tuesday, Sept. 18, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • University of Minnesota Duluth Alworth Planetarium.
  • $17 for four Tuesdays, Sept. 18 to Oct. 18, plus $8 planetarium fee.

"City Lights, Starry Nights" documentary premiere. 

  • Wednesday, Sept. 19, 7-9 p.m.
  • Fitger's Spirit of the North Theater, upstairs Fitger's Complex, 600 E. Superior St., Duluth.
  • Free.

Starry Skies Happy Hour. Treats and jazz guitar music by Briand Morrison of Grand Portage.

  • Friday, Sept. 21, 4-7 p.m.
  • Cedar Coffee Company, 1130 11th St., Two Harbors.
  • Free.
Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. 

(218) 834-2141