Wind turbine site audio recordings

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In my final (sunny!) visit to UMore Park for this study, I chose to record audio samples at the site of the wind turbine to be installed in the NE area of the UMore Park property. Plans for this endeavor are currently being finalized and developed, with the actual turbine to be installed in August. After exploring the property further last week and comparing different sites that Steve was able to give me a bit more history and development news on, I thought this site would work best for recording audio samples that could be compared against near future samples in as soon as a few short months. I got to this site with the helpful direction of Steve the week before, and by taking county road 46 heading west, a left on Blaine Avenue, and another left on the small gravel offshoot of 152nd street on the property. The site isn't too far from county road 52, though traffic on this road was not very prominent at the time when I recorded these samples. The following is documentation of my audio samples, recorded on Tuesday, 5/3.

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For ease of understanding how to repeat this recording in the future, the following sound recordings were sampled every 100 steps as I walked from the furthermost east corner of 152nd St to its western edge. They are as follows:

93.8 dB SPL with a 99.3 dB max

83.4 dB SPL with a 99.3 dB max

63.1 dB SPL with a 90.2 dB max

64.7 dB SPL with a 90.2 dB max

70.1 dB SPL with a 96.5 dB max

74.9 dB SPL with a 96.5 dB max

66.0 dB SPL with a 96.5 dB max

70.8 dB SPL with a 96.5 dB max

74.3 dB SPL with a 96.5 dB max

79.7 dB SPL with a 96.5 dB max

68.0 dB SPL with a 96.5 dB max

82.9 dB SPL with a 96.5 dB max

Without being able to compare this data against any other samples taken at the site, it is difficult to tell whether the development of the wind turbine on this property will have any large effect on the volume of noise in its vicinity or otherwise. Nonetheless, it was an interesting experience to document one specific area in a more or less scientific way, so as to allow for consistency in the next recording here for ease of comparison. I look forward to seeing what comes of the wind turbine's installment and how it may effect the property's future development even further.

Second visit to UMore Park

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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.

Park visit update

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In planning my next visit to UMore Park this Thursday, I will be going back to Rosemount to conduct an interview and tour with the park's program director, Steven Lott. Touring the property with someone more familiar with it should be helpful in gaining insight into the best locations to document audio and visuals. In accordance with rules of the park, as a visitor to the property I am expected to check into the Administration Building and out when I leave, ensuring that my visit does not disrupt any research activities or University contractors as well as to ensure my personal safety. I am not allowed to venture off the roads, whether paved or gravel, throughout the property. The exception would be the Vermillion Highlands property where I would be able to hike or walk on the Lone Rock Trail.

Given the nearer term changes that may occur in the following areas of the property, I will likely try to capture some photos and sounds in the following potential locations:

Wind Turbine site - located in the eastern portion of the property, this site will soon see activity with preparation for the construction of the 2.5 megawatt Wind Turbine for research and education. Upcoming activities will include preparing the road so that component parts can be delivered, construction of the foundation for the turbine, etc. Construction is anticipated to conclude in August.

Ballfield site - the University transferred approximately 27.5 acres of land located adjacent to the southwest corner of the DCTC property to the City of Rosemount as a parkland pre-dedication, meeting state requirements as UMore Park is developed. The land is anticipated to be developed in the relatively near future into baseball and softball fields for children, youth and adult play.

UMore Park mining area - located on the western edge of the UMore Park property, changes in the 1,722 acre UMore Park mining area are anticipated as early as next spring, following the appropriate ordinance and permitting processes undertaken by the University's mining partner, Dakota Aggregates.

Vermillion Highlands - the 2, 822-acre Vermillion Highlands: A Research, Recreation and Wildlife Management Area to the south of UMore Park is designated by legislation as a natural area in perpetuity. The Trail Head provides access to the Lone Rock Trail.

Looking forward to seeing what insight Steven has on the property and what else I can capture on Thursday!

Visit #1: UMore Park grounds

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This past Thursday, April 22nd was my first visit to the UMore Park grounds in Rosemount and Vermillion Highlands. Though somewhat developed with structures for farming facilities and administrative buildings, the land was relatively desolate and gated in sparse areas where it wasn't just open space. Driving into the property, I saw and photographed remnants of the land's previous uses as a federal government's site known as Gopher Ordnance Works (started in May 1942), a facility to produce "smokeless powder," the basic propellant for American military ordnance at the time during WWII. In speaking more with Julie Bodurtha, the External Relations Coordinator of the park, I understand the land is now currently under an alternative area-wide review for testing its water and soil. This is happening due to the unknowns about what potentially destructive chemicals were used on the land during that time, and how they could affect UMore's current and future developments.

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I stopped into the Rosemount Research and Outreach Center to grab a map of the grounds and some literature on the current developments of the region. The map below is a rough sketch of the property, though one I tried to follow to record some audio samples and photos of the land. I started at the Research Center, spot 2 on the map. Unfortunately there is no digital example of this map, so I did my best and took a photo to share here. I will ask for a better copy upon my next visit.

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I took as many sound recordings as possible using an iPhone application at landmarks on the map as well as some other notable stops. They are recorded below, with location noted by the number as it correlates to parts of the map:

Along County Road 46 driving into the facility (near the first UMore Park sign):
61.0 dB SPL with a 78.4 dB Max, -1.4 dB Ref


#2: Rosemount Research & Outreach Center:

78.6 dB SPL with a 79.5 dB Max, 18.3 dB Ref

Master Gardener Educational & Research Gardens (across from the Research Center):
47.0 dB SPL with an 81.9 dB Max

#3: Beef Facilities (North)
59.1 dB SPL with an 84.9 Max, -3.4 dB Ref

#4: Poultry Facilities
67.2 dB SPL with a 90.9 dB Max, 4.8 dB Ref

#5: West Research Complex
53.2 dB SPL, 87.2 dB Max, 0.0 dB Ref


#6: South Research Complex

73.3 dB SPL, 84.5 dB Max, 10.9 dB Ref

#7: Contracts and Leasing Office
67.4 dB SPL with an 84.7 dB Max, -1.0 dB Ref

I was unable to get to points #8 & #9 on the map to record in the following manner. I do think that this visit was a great trial run in getting some sound samples of areas on the property, if for no other reason than to figure out what works and what doesn't work. In trying to work out a system of consistency, I tried to take each sound recording directly at its landmark (ex: the sign that welcomes guests of the property to UMore Park, or the sign that shows the address of the Research and Outreach Center, etc), and facing in towards the land. I say this because several of these sights - #1, 2, 4, & 5 - were all directly off of a busy road (County Road 46), and thus caught the audio from traffic passing by - though I suppose in this way, the sample is accurate, it is also picking up ambient, temporary noise.

"If a loud noise can affect many square miles, then a natural place, if maintained in a 100 percent noise-free condition, will likewise affect many square miles around it."


Park visit update

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Have recently been in touch with Julie Bodurtha, the External Relations Coordinator at UMore Park! She will be speaking with authorities of the park as well as some fellow colleagues to hopefully grant me access to the property in the coming week. Unfortunately, it sounds like there are many restrictions for public access as development is slow-going in its current stage. If nothing else, I proposed visiting the borders of the site to record some audio for later comparison post-further development? Perhaps not an ideal scenario, though it could be interesting to compare the North side of the property, the busier, populated area of Rosemount against the South side of Vermillion Highlands which, through my understanding of the space, I would assume would be much more peaceful. Nonetheless, photos and video with sound recording should be coming soon! I look forward to documenting what I have been busy researching. I expect this experience should bring more vivid color to the readings I've been dabbling in to better understand the experience of the natural space being transformed (Walden, by Thoreau & One Square Inch of Silence by Gordon Hempton).

Questioning UMore's purpose

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Article from the MN Daily, copied and pasted here (go to to see it from the source)

The following article is a letter to the editor retortion from Lois Braun, the researcher quoted from the previous article last posted as having been fine with the relocation of 30-40 faculty of the University of Minnesota's research. She explains her misquotation and opposing case eloquently below as she questions the value of the work being done on site if its not sustainable. Should we?

Stainability, meet UMore Park

The University's development plans must take precious farmland into account.
date 2010 / 03 / 07
section Opinion > Letters to the Editor

By Lois Braun

In a recent Minnesota Daily article, The University of Minnesota Outreach, Research and Education (UMore) Director Larry Laukka is quoted as saying that he gets the most enjoyment out of "turning a faceless piece of land into a unique, utilized community." And therein lies the difference between his worldview and mine.

In my view, there is no such thing as a "faceless" piece of land. In developing property, one must always consider what is already there and what will be destroyed by its development. UMore is hardly the "blank piece of paper" Laukka calls it.

In the article, I was quoted as saying that there isn't much good agricultural land (left) at Rosemount. That is because of disturbance by Gopher Ordnance Works. Before the army messed up the soil that was eventually deeded to the University after World War II, most of the area was prime farmland. What is tragic about the UMore Park development plans is that they call for mining gravel from the only land that wasn't tainted by the munitions plant. University Statewide Strategic Resource Development Vice President Charles Muscoplat states that under the plan, 1,000 acres are being set aside for agricultural research. What he doesn't say is that these 1,000 are in the part of UMore Park with messed-up soils. I used to have plots in some of these soils and can vouch that they aren't much good for agriculture. The University should develop that land and leave the good soil for feeding future generations.

Good soil takes thousands of years to develop. There is no way that gravel can be removed without significantly damaging it, and food-producing farmland will become even more precious in years to come due to the challenges of population growth, climate change and fossil fuel depletion.

Farmland on the urban fringe, such as the land at UMore Park, is even more precious because of its proximity to urban markets. This is especially relevant to fresh produce. About a dozen Hmong farm families currently lease land from UMore to produce food that they sell to Twin Cities farmers markets. The University is sending the completely wrong message to the public about the value of farming and fresh food by pushing these farmers further from their markets. If the University condones the destruction of farmland, how can we expect other landowners on the urban periphery not to also sell out?

Good soil is a virtually irreplaceable resource. I believe it is a crime against future generations to squander it. They can't eat gravel. The destruction of prime farmland is completely at odds with the value of "sustainability" that the project purports to support.

Many elements of the "sustainable" community that Laukka envisions for UMore Park are laudable. It's a good project, but in the wrong place. No matter how well designed it might be, UMore Park will still amount to urban sprawl. True sustainability calls for figuring out how to integrate sustainable design into existing urban communities. We can't afford to build completely new towns; we have to retrofit what we've already got. And figuring out how to do that will be a far bigger challenge than building on the relatively blank land at UMore Park.

If the University and Larry Laukka truly wish to be leaders in sustainable community development, I suggest they take on that bigger challenge.

Lois Braun, University Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics

In my continued research of UMore Park, developing a contact list for interviews relating to various aspects of the project, I stumbled upon a great article written by a staff reporter at the MN Daily in 2010 (). This article pinpoints some key players I could really benefit from talking to more, to get a better understanding of their current state within the development of the park.

Fotis Sotiropoulos - director of the University of Minnesota's St. Anthony Falls Laboratory and principal investigator on the UMore Park project. He works along with a group of faculty from the University of Minnesota's Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota Morris, Syracuse University, and Dakota County Technical College. In 2010, he secured a two-year, $8 million grant to install a wind turbine on the UMore Park property and find ways to improve the extraction of energy from the wind. The money comes from federal stimulus funding given through the U.S. Department of Energy.

Marilyn Bruin - faculty in the College of Design. She is interested in studying best practices for multi-use community development -- communities that have commercial, residential and recreational aspects, and sees UMore Park as a great opportunity and space to integrate coursework and research for both the University's research and curriculum for students.

Charles Muscoplat - Vice President for Statewide Strategic Resource Development who has been dealing with the recent mining of gravel found on the property spanning about 200 of its 5,000 acres. More importantly, this mining will displace about 35 to 40 faculty researchers currently utilizing portions of the land and potentially delay their current research projects by moving two miles south to the area known as Vermillion Heights.

Lois Braun - researcher in the University Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics directly involved in above said relocation

Julie Bodurtha - External Relations Coordinator for UMore Park activities

UMore Park newsletter

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I have just registered for a newsletter to receive mailed updates on UMore Park and Vermillion Highlands' development. This is easily done with the link below

http://www.umorepark.umn.edu/updates/index.htm

Sustainability Goals for UMore Park: A Public Forum

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http://www.umorepark.umn.edu/news/sustainability/index.htm

The above link provides more information for those interested in or planning to attend the most current upcoming forum on sustainability at UMore Park. The date of the event is on April 7, 2011 at 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., with the formal program beginning at 5:45 p.m. at the Rosemount Community Center. A brief overview of the event is provided below and taken as an excerpt from the website:

"Attend the April 7 public forum to learn more about the goals for sustainability for the future community at UMore Park and to share your ideas. The forum will begin with a brief presentation to highlight sustainability linkages to health, sense of community, culture, job creation, energy, water and the landscape. Following a brief presentation, attendees are asked to contribute ideas and aspirations for the future on a variety of topics during an informal "open house" session."

Sounds like an informative and exciting initiative!