New viewers at state park make colors easier to see | News, Sports, Jobs

A GROUP OF three people invited to test new viewers for colorblind visitors at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park look through special sunglasses that use the same technology. From left to right are Joshua Smith from Marquette, Park Ranger Justin Farley and Patti Steinberg from Crystal Falls. One of the new spectators can be seen behind them. (Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

For those looking to experience the grandeur of nature, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the western Upper Peninsula, affectionately known as “the Porkies” – is the place to go.

With 60,000 acres of old growth forest, roaring waterfalls, Lake Superior shoreline, rivers, trails and ridges, the park’s unparalleled views make Michigan’s largest state park a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Scenic views of Porkies at natural attractions like Lake of the Clouds and Summit Peak attract many visitors, but some people haven’t had a chance to see these sights as vibrant as others, until now.

In June, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Recreation introduced specially adapted scenic viewers at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park that offer people who are colorblind a tool to enjoy the full spectrum of colors in the park for the first time.

Two color blind spectators are shown in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

The visors, made by SeeCoast Manufacturing, have filters produced by EnChroma, a company that makes glasses for the color blind.

EnChroma’s specially designed lenses allow people with red-green color blindness to see color more clearly, distinctly and vibrantly.

The lenses contain optical filters that remove small fragments of light, helping to compensate for excessive overlapping of photopigments in the eye and improves vibrancy and color saturation while facilitating discrimination, depth and color perception. for colorblind people.

The company has launched International Color Blindness Awareness Month in September, “to educate the world about the impact that color vision deficiency has on people at work, at school, and on the full appreciation of art or the colors of nature,” said Erik Ritchie, CEO of EnChroma.

Missing some of nature’s true colors

One in 12 men and one in 200 women, about 425,000 people in Michigan and 13 million in the US, have color blindness. While people without color blindness see more than a million shades and shades, people with color blindness only see about 10% of them.

For colorblind people, some colors are indistinguishable. For example, purple and blue look the same, red looks brown, pink looks gray, and green looks brown or gray.

Numerous state and national parks, including 13 Tennessee state parks, have already offered EnChroma technology to help enhance colorblind visitors’ outdoor sightseeing experiences.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park manager Mike Knack heard about Tennessee’s efforts and thought visitors to the Porkies would benefit from similar technology.

“When I first heard about these viewers, I knew I needed to get them for our park,” Knack said. “Really, the mission was to be able to allow all people with color blindness to see what all people with normal vision can see: the spectacular views of the Porkies in Western UP”

A park visitor peers through one of the new colorblind viewers at the Lake of the Clouds Scenic Overlook.

Adding this new technology for those who are colorblind is part of a larger effort to make the park accessible to visitors of all abilities.

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“The Porkies is such a special place and we want everyone to enjoy it,” Knack said. “This is just one more way we can bring everyone to the park, and everyone can enjoy and experience the park in a similar way.”

Introducing new technology for colorblind visitors

The viewers have been installed in the three emblematic attractions of the park:

— Lake of the Clouds Scenic Overlook: Surrounded by the silhouettes of the Porcupine Mountains and overlooking thick forest, Lake of the Clouds is the most photographed feature in the park and one of the most photographed in the entire Upper Peninsula.

— Summit Peak Observation Tower: The highest point in the park, at nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, this 50-foot tower offers spectacular views. On clear days, visitors can see the Apostle Islands to the northwest and Isla Real to the northeast.

— Nawadaha Falls: There is a viewing platform for guests to enjoy Nawadaha, one of three beautiful waterfalls on the Presque Isle River, located on the western edge of the park.

Both the falls and the Lake of the Clouds panoramic viewpoint have two viewers, one of which is at a height suitable for wheelchair users.

Friends of the Porkies, the park’s nonprofit support group, raised money to fund the purchase of the five accessible viewers. The total cost was around $17,000.

A group of three people wear special glasses to correct color blindness in the Porcupine Mountains.

“I think it will open up a world of possibilities for park visitors,” said Sally Berman, president of Friends of the Porkies. “The fall colors in the Porkies are definitely some of the best in the state of Michigan, because we have a mix of deciduous trees and evergreens, so we get golds, reds, oranges, and burgundy mixed with that green. Very dark. Being able to experience fall color here is one of the highlights of the year.”

Opening the door to a more colorful world

At the viewers’ opening in June, three guests with color blindness came to the Porkies to see them. They also had the opportunity to try on EnChroma glasses that use the same technology as the spectators.

Justin Farley, a 43-year-old park ranger at Porcupine Mountains Wildlife State Park, said he has moderate color blindness and has trouble distinguishing edges when he paints and traces the blood of hunted animals, mostly on green grass. He said he hopes the EnChroma goggles will allow him to better track game when he hunts and make it easier for him to distinguish colors when he looks at trees.

“The colors are much more pronounced. Without the glasses, everything looks green. But with the crowns, the oaks and maples have a certain green color. And also, pines and cedars are much darker than green. It is easier to differentiate the colors with the glasses”, Farley said.

Joshua Smith, 43, is a Marquette hotel clerk and artist who said he was teased when he couldn’t see colors properly.

“It’s hard when I’m looking for colors when I’m making art because it’s hard to find the right color. I also have problems when looking at color coded things.” Smith said.

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He hopes that the EnChroma glasses will allow him “to see the colors I’m missing. I would like to experience how it will affect my art and see things that people often say are beautiful, like the Northern Lights, which I really don’t get to see much of.”

Patty Steinberg, 66, is a Crystal Falls retiree who was diagnosed with color blindness when she was 20 years old. She said she has always relied on a sibling or spouse to help match her clothes and that she longs to see the vibrant colors of the great outdoors.

Justin Farley, a park ranger at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, looks through one of the park’s newest spectators.

“If you’re colorblind and wondering what you’ve been missing, you should come and look at the viewer and see what you’ve been missing.” Steinberg said. “It was incredible. I saw colors and shades that I had never seen before.”

Berman said she was delighted to see visitors using the adaptive technology.

“When I heard the comments from those three people who were wearing the visors and glasses for the first time, tears streamed down my face. Happiness tears,” Bermann said.

Building on DNR’s accessibility, equity and inclusion efforts

Specialized visors are not only available on Porkies. An EnChroma-enabled viewer was also recently installed on the Skyline Trail at Ludington State Park in Mason County, thanks to Friends of the Ludington State Park.

Jim Gallie, manager of Ludington State Park, said the Friends group approached park staff with the idea after the organization’s president, Patrick O’Hare, learned of it at the Friends of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division.

“He was surprised to learn of the prevalence of color blindness in the population and thought it would be a great addition to our accessibility improvements in the park.” Galli said. “We opted to locate it on the Skyline Trail since that location has such expansive views to the south. In the future, we are looking to place additional spectators at other locations in the park, such as along the Island Trail overlooking Lake Hamlin.”

Specialized viewers for colorblind visitors are part of the DNR’s goal to expand accessibility, equity, and inclusion.

“Over the years, through input from the department’s Accessibility Advisory Council, the passion and fundraising of local state parks friends groups, and the commitment to improving existing facilities from planners and park managers, the DNR has made significant strides in improving amenities and facilities for people. of all abilities.” said Dan Lord, acting deputy chief of the DNR’s Finance and Operations Division.

Lord also serves as Executive Sponsor of the Accessibility Advisory Council, which provides guidance to help the DNR develop, manage, and plan opportunities for people of all abilities to enjoy Michigan’s natural resources.

“The technology that has been incorporated into Ludington State Park and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park allows more people to experience the incredible colors of natural resources that these two amazing places have to offer.” he said.

To learn more about the wide variety of accessible recreational opportunities the DNR offers at state parks, campgrounds, boat access sites, state playgrounds, trails and more, visit Michigan.gov/DNRAccessibility.

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