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Do you see what I see?

New viewers at two Michigan state parks make colors easier to see

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

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

The Porkies’ scenic views at natural attractions like Lake of the Clouds and Summit Peak draw many visitors, but some people haven’t had the opportunity to see these sights as vibrantly as others – until now.

In June, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division unveiled 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 at the park for the first time.

The viewers, made by SeeCoast Manufacturing, have filters produced by EnChroma, a company that manufactures eyewear for colorblindness.

EnChroma’s specially engineered lenses enable people who have red-green colorblindness to see color more clearly, distinctly and vibrantly.

The lenses contain optical filters that remove small slices of light, which helps compensate for excessive overlap in the photopigments in the eye and enhances the vibrancy and saturation of colors while facilitating color discrimination, depth and perception for people who are colorblind.

The company has launched International Color Blindness Awareness Month in September, “to educate the world about the impact color vision deficiency has on people at work, in school, and in fully appreciating 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 U.S., have colorblindness. While people without colorblindness see over one million hues and shades, people with colorblindness see only about 10% of them.

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

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

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park manager Mike Knack learned 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 let everybody who has colorblindness be able to see what everyone with normal eyesight and normal vision can see – the spectacular views all across the Porkies in the Western U.P.”

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

“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 everybody into the park, and they can all enjoy and experience the park in a similar way.”

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