Sunday, July 28, 2019

Michigan Woods Come Alive With Sound

I live in a semi-rural suburban development. Emphasis on the "semi-". There are still some small patches of woods, parks, and farmland left within walking distance of my subdivision but I imagine in the next two decades or so they will all be cut down and paved over. Because progress.

So even though I'm not the biggest outdoors enthusiast it is still nice to get away sometimes and enjoy nature. For some people of course one of their important life goals is to enjoy nature and be at one with the flora and fauna of this wonderful planet. Those people would likely appreciate this story.

Afton — The oddly shaped wooden mega-sized megaphone appears ghost-like through the trees. Anne Fleming walks a little faster, drawn to the structure. “This is an amazing place,” said Fleming, 51, a spokeswoman for the Little Traverse Conservancy. “It is out in the woods away from everything and very special.” Completed and installed on a ridge on conservancy property along the Pigeon River in late May, this 10-foot-long audio device nestled among trees in northern Michigan allows the curious to listen to nature and all its splendor. The megaphone, which is just being discovered by hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, is believed to be the only of its kind in the United States. 

The huge structure is on the 400-acre Boyd B. Barnwell Family Nature Preserve where it adjoins the Andreae Nature Preserve and the Pigeon River. 

“It’s not an easy destination to get to,” Fleming said. “We wanted to place it where it would enhance the wilderness experience. It’s low-tech, it’s made of wood and enhances your senses without electronics. It brings you down to a simple pleasure. It’s very special.” 

While sitting in the structure, outdoor sounds become amplified. The chirping of songbirds, unheard while outside, are easily recognized when inside the megaphone. The rustling of light wind in the trees becomes a white noise background.

The reason behind this creation is a simple discovery from the internet. Charles Dawley, 39, a stewardship and technology coordinator with the Little Traverse Conservancy in Harbor Springs, read about massive wooden megaphones placed in a forest in Estonia from a nature blog he read five or six years ago. “I follow several blogs and read about these devices in Estonia. I thought one would be a great addition to the conservancy,” Dawley said. “Why not put one in northern Michigan’s pristine wilderness?”

Larry Liebler, a construction trades teacher at Petoskey High School, works on conservancy projects and heard about the idea of a megaphone. "It was quite unusual,” said Liebler, 68. “That was what drew me to it.” Liebler tries to get his students involved in community projects, and the uniqueness of this idea intrigued Liebler. The students rose to the challenge. LINK

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