November 18, 2020
From: Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition
P.O. Box 202592
Anchorage, AK 99520
To: Chugach State Park Superintendent
Dear Superintendent Kurt Hensel,
I am writing on behalf of Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) to suggest a solution to user conflicts over loud music on the trails. As you know, AQRC advocates on behalf of users who value natural soundscapes and natural quiet in their outdoor recreation.
Increasingly, our members have encountered other park users playing loud music on the trails with a new generation of portable speakers and smartphones, which unnecessarily disturbs other users. The root of this problem is that signs at trailheads across the state proclaim “Make noise!” in the interest of bear safety. Today, with our always-on relationship to technology, people dutifully follow this advice, cranking up the music on their smartphones as loud as it will go.
All park users have a right to enjoy the natural sights and sounds of Alaska without the interference of an external soundtrack. We suggest the best way to address this issue falls in the course of regular trailhead maintenance. When old signage needs to be retired, new signs could include the following changes. First, “Make noise!” should be replaced with language like “Let bears know you are coming. Talk loudly, especially near brush or streams.” Second, signage should also remind users to “Be considerate. Loud music can disturb wildlife and trail users.” These changes respect everyone’s rights to recreate differently.
It may seem like disturbing others with loud music on the trail isn’t a problem worth addressing. However, we would point out that this same behavior is already illegal in other public spaces. For example, the Anchorage code mandates a $100 fine for the first violation, and $1000 for the third violation, for music that can be heard more than 25 feet away, in the case of car stereos. Music from smartphones and portable speakers is easily heard more than 25 feet away on the trail, partly because smartphones’ internal speakers today can produce up to 80 decibels of sound. That number is no accident; it’s OSHA’s threshold for hearing conservation. All in all, we think the changes proposed above would be an effective way to address this growing problem without imposing new costs.
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition, Secretary