This past Thursday, I was able to visit UMore Park for the second time. This time I had the insight of Steven Lott, the property's project manager in charge of overseeing its projects and overall development of the land as it changes with time. I toured the property with him and gained some interesting insight on a timeline for several locations of its near future development. This aspect of our conversation was particularly relevant to the audio samples I recorded on my first visit to the property. Unfortunately I had difficulties with the sound recording application I had used successfully on my first visit, an obvious problem. The meter kept freezing on the same data every time I tried to record, and after trying a few different areas and times, I resolved to focus on gathering information to inform my next visit & plan on having the equitment fixed for the next time. The following is a summary of the notes that I took during this second visit.
It rained in the morning making my tour of the property more challenging than expected as a lot of the roads off of the highway that we needed to take to get to various sites are gravel - not an ideal fit for my honda civic upon encountering leagues of watery potholes. I decided to make my next visit on a sunnier day, particularly if planning to walk the trails in Vermillion Highlands at all.
I met Steve at the administration office where he gave me a map of the UMore campus. He informed me that the land is equivalent to the size of St. Louis Park, to get a better feel for the entirety of the property (5,000 acres). Steve told me that Vermillion Highlands used to be apart of the property owned by the University, but it was sold in large part to fund the very recent installment of the TCF Stadium in Minneapolis. Vermillion Highlands is almost half the size of the current UMore property, so this decision meant losing a lot of potential experimental land for a different investment for the University. That was a fact I hadn't known before and thought was an interesting choice on te University's behalf. I've found it interesting in talking with fellow students, etc. how few people know about UMore Park, particularly in the context of conversations about the TCF Stadium's foundation, etc. That aside, Steve informed me that though the Vermillion Highlands property is not for UMore's development, it is and will continue to be a naturally preserved property. Aside from trails, it is open to the public at anytime, with the cost of a park permit being $5. Hunting is allowed on the property, however, so if I were to do any exploring or hiking there, it would be highly recommended that I wear bright colors.
Steve took me first to the site where the park's wind turbine will be installed in the near future. Developed and planted in August, Steve explained that many trees had to be cut down not because they were getting in the way of where the actual turbine would be installed, but because of the flow of the wind in that area and how trees being there would disrupt the turbine's wind flow throughout the property. I also learned that this development wasn't going to be a turbine for energy production so much as it would be used for conducting research by the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory nearby.
The second site we visited on the property was on the North end. Here, there is near future development of soccer and baseball fields being planned to be used by the Rosemount community near the Dakota County Technical College. These will be ready by the summer of 2012. Between now and then, the UMore development team will have to remove several structures left by Gopher Ordinance works - a task that they currently don't have much funding for, nor do they want to waste their limited funds on removing old-standing buildings from the property. A quick history about Gopher Ordinance Works (GOW) -
In 1942 and 1943, the U.S. War Department acquired the (then current) 12,000 acres of farmland in Dakota County for construction of the Gopher Ordnance Works (GOW). The GOW facility was designed to manufacture smokeless gunpowder and related products, assisting the war effort by producing a propellant for American military ordnance. Production began in January 1945, and ceased in October 1945. University research, including aeronautical, medical and agricultural projects, began on sections of the land immediately, frequently making use of some of the remaining 298 GOW buildings for studies and storage.
These above structures are what the property funding is currently dealing & struggling with - they'd rather put their funding towards developing new uses for the land, however in order for it to be developed somehow these buildings have to be dealt with. I was surprised in general to see how many buildings were still on the property after so long a time since GOW's installment in 1942. Steve informed me that these building structures were only meant to last 5-6 years tops, but even now some of them are being used as office buildings for leasing properties, both for the U of M & for building space that the University leases out for private use contractors, etc. Apparently a fair share of the land is leased for farming - the University doesn't make much profit off of this, but some.
The third region we explored was the mining area in the NW region of the property - a location that would be a good space to check out in comparing audio samples over the next couple years of its development. By the end of 2011, the trees will also be cut down for this area just like the wind turbine site.
Overall, I was surprised by the beauty and simplicity of the land that I saw on my tour. It was nice to get a closer, inside view of the land, an overview of the space & an understanding of how it's been and will soon be used. It was also interesting to see that there are still a few private properties that encroach just on the boarders of the U of M's property - these were environmentally sustainable houses maintained here & there with beautiful lush gardens. I don't blame these property owners for not wanting to give up their secluded and underdeveloped space.
My tour with Steven was overall very informative in deciding where I'll be recording more sound samples on my next and final visit to UMore Park.