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GNP: Going-to-the-Sun Road Noise Study Begins

Project Aims to Preserve Natural Soundscapes
WEST GLACIER, MT.  – Glacier National Park will begin a vehicle noise education and outreach project along the Going-to-the-Sun Road this month in an effort to reduce vehicle noise and preserve natural soundscapes in the park. Two roadside noise meters will be placed along the Going-to-the-Sun Road to collect decibel level data.  Driver education and outreach efforts will also take place.
A microphone records the sounds of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado. NPS Photo.

The meters will be placed near the St. Mary and West Glacier entrance stations on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  Additionally, information about how to minimize noise impacts from vehicles will be available at park visitor centers. The project is anticipated to continue through mid-August and is part of the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Management Plan development process.

Natural sound is an important natural and cultural resource the National Park Service is mandated to protect. Maintaining natural soundscapes is critical for the preservation of wildlife habitat, wilderness character, and cultural heritage. Wildlife use natural sounds to establish territory, find mates, protect young, and communicate. Vehicle noise disturbance is a common complaint from Glacier National Park visitors, as many people seek solitude and quiet experiences in the park’s backcountry.  Numerous comments regarding noise disturbance were received during the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Management Plan public meetings last year.
The study will address noise from a variety of sources including park operations, construction, maintenance, and transportation. While all vehicles and visitors contribute to increased noise, low-frequency sound from motorcycles travels further than typical passenger cars and trucks. Noise modeling at the park has shown that some motorcycle noise reaches far into the backcountry in a number of locations along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. A brochure will be provided to motorcycle users with suggestions on how to ride respectfully through national parks. For example, motorcycle users are discouraged from revving their engines because the additional noise can disturb animals and other visitors. 
Information about natural sounds is available at park visitor centers and online HERE. Other units of the National Park Service are also conducting similar noise study and education programs this year

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