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4 Report from the Facilities and Maintenance Breakout Group1 T he facilities and maintenance breakout group organized its dis- cussions around the broad topics of park practices, promotion of low-noise policies, and purchasing. According to the group’s reporter, Beth Cooper, the members sought to raise issues and suggest strategies rather than devise specific solutions. PARK PRACTICES A construction guide or handbook for park employees would be a useful tool to prepare for noise-generating projects, allowing the establishment of acceptable noise level criteria ahead of time, said Cooper. Other agen- cies have noise management primers with high-level guidance about noise mitigation strategies for various situations. A number of options were cited for eliminating or reducing noisy operations. Examination of the frequency, scope, duration, and area of coverage for operations such as lawn mowing and leaf blowing could yield opportunities to reduce noise significantly, and landscape features that require the generation of noise, such as lawns, could be modified. In addition, portable work (such as the cutting up of a fallen tree) could be transported to a place where the noise impact would be less severe, assuming the transportation itself was not noise prohibitive. Switching out power tools for hand tools in some applications is worth consider- ing when practical. Maintenance contracts could include noise emission specifications. The group also suggested scheduling noisy operations for 1Facilities and Maintenance Breakout Group members were Colin Campbell, Beth Cooper, Aaron Hastings, George Maling, Shashikant More, Paul Pfenniger, Kim Slininger, Karen Trevino, Frank Turina, and Eric Wood. 25

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26 PROTECTING NATIONAL PARK SOUNDSCAPES particular times and areas based on expected visitor traffic. Establishing designated high-noise areas might be useful. Audio programs delivered via loudspeakers, the group said, could be reduced, conducted less often, or delivered in a more directed ­ashion f (e.g., with wireless headphones). Group members suggested piggybacking a low-noise campaign on an existing NPS training initiative, Call to Action.2 They also pro- posed an inventory and review of all noise-producing operations and of equipment for labeling according to noise level. Once in a database, equipment could be assigned to different park areas based on its noise generation, prioritizing low-noise equipment for more sensitive areas. The NASA Buy-Quiet program has a large inventory of sound levels and a system for assigning noise levels to equipment, Cooper said, which could be considered. Noise emissions could be monitored over time after purchase. Planning a noise control project often requires guidance to identify requirements and the scope of the project. Efforts to address technical problems in the planning process will benefit greatly from the services of a board-certified noise control engineer (e.g., the Institute of Noise Control Engineering of the USA provides board certification). Breakout group participants suggested a triage approach, choosing the highest- priority problems and hiring someone to design solutions. PROMOTION OF LOW-NOISE POLICIES The group’s second area of focus was promotion of low-noise poli- cies. Quiet and noisy zones or corridors could be established in parks and moved as work dictated. These zones could be promoted via the interpretive program staff and a published schedule for visitors. Noisy operations could be scheduled to avoid conflict with quiet zones or quiet times of day, which could help make low-noise policies more easily ­ received by the public. When visitors come to expect natural quiet places and experiences, they may help serve as advocates. The Park Service also could include questions about sounds on visitor surveys to build awareness and gather information about noises in the parks. The group emphasized the importance of including stakeholders such as concessionaires in decisions about quiet areas, since they have an interest in the success of the park. This would also help make con- 2Available online at

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REPORT FROM THE FACILITIES AND MAINTENANCE BREAKOUT GROUP 27 cessionaires part of the campaign so they can inform visitors of the reason behind the policies. Communicating with communities near park entrances, “friends of the parks” groups, and other stakeholders can build understanding and support of low-noise policies. A website could enable sharing of best practices. PURCHASING Because A-weighted sound levels do not adequately capture all impacts of noise, the group urged that parks have multiple mechanisms and multiple criteria to deal with protection of the soundscape, wildlife impact, hearing loss prevention, and community noise. However, in considering multiple metrics, the Park Service should standardize its operations nationwide, as applicable, to ensure consistency and enable vendors to compete under the same terms. Moreover, sound quality (e.g., impulsive, rumbly, or hissy) needs to be considered in addition to sound level, as the latter does not convey all the dimensions of noise’s effects on humans, and visitor perceptions are important. Noise emission requirements could be included in contracts for maintenance and other services and in purchase specifications for equip- ment. Standards for noise emissions and guidance for low-noise products have been developed both in the United States and in other countries. A measurement standard included in the specification would enable the Park Service to verify measurements. Some products, particularly those manufactured for sale in the European Union, may already be certified and labeled. For example, the Blue Angel3 label, which certifies prod- ucts as low noise, is widely used in Europe and covers many tools and equipment of potential interest to the Park Service, such as construction machinery, garden tools, municipal vehicles, and automobile tires. As a specific example, plastic garbage cans are quieter than metal, and there is a Blue Angel label for cans that collect glass. There is also a Blue Angel label for chainsaws. Data from manufacturers on noise emissions are preferable to data from other sources, according to the group, as they are generally more accurate and more current. The group also discussed identifying the most frequently purchased pieces of high-noise equipment in the Park Service and developing specifications for them first. Bulk purchasing, perhaps across government agencies, could also be a strategy for the 3Online at

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28 PROTECTING NATIONAL PARK SOUNDSCAPES Park Service to work with a manufacturer to design quieter equipment or bring down the price on existing quiet equipment. Shop and field verification can ensure compliance with noise specifications. DISCUSSION After going over the major points, Cooper opened up the session for discussion. Participants wondered whether procurements are limited to American-made products, which would impede the use of EU guide- lines, but it was pointed out that many products made for sale in the European Union are also made by American manufacturers. Products assembled in the United States may also be allowable under the Buy America provisions.4 EPA has some rules in effect for purchasing quiet products, and the Park Service could work with the agency to create or enforce purchasing criteria. A complete inventory of NPS equipment would enable the Park Service to set targets and track noise performance over time. Several options were mentioned for enhancing NPS staff awareness of noise levels. Participants discussed the value of setting up long-term noise monitoring stations in the parks to track progress and pointed out that it would be important to differentiate between disruptive noises and appropriate sounds. Labels on equipment would raise awareness by, for example, reminding users that a chainsaw can sometimes be heard two miles away. In Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park the manage- ment teams took generals from a nearby base into the backcountry so they could hear the impact of their jets. There was general agreement that having choices and being informed helps visitors to feel that they are in control of their options; an Air Force study done in cooperation with NPS demonstrated that warning people about noise ahead of time raised their tolerance of it. Thus a website could list the location(s) of noisy operations on a daily basis so that v ­ isitors can avoid those areas. Participants also discussed tracking visitor movement and noise exposure. Providing visitors with GPS trackers can be useful, but that strategy would need to be combined with reliable acoustic monitor- ing. Cell phones with sound-level meter applications are an option, but many attendees expressed concern about their accuracy. Another participant pointed out that letting people report their perceived noise 4An overview of Buy America is available at

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REPORT FROM THE FACILITIES AND MAINTENANCE BREAKOUT GROUP 29 exposure using phones might offer some data while simultaneously raising awareness of noise issues, thus serving as an educational tool for visitors. Soundscape data also could be used to broaden exposure to the National Park experience, encouraging people to visit by enabling them to hear the parks’ natural sounds.