Some Facts about Sound Levels

Over the days leading up to and around Christmas there have been several posts in the Baie-D’Urfé Facebook Group about the perennial issues of sound levels from the highway and rail tracks. Citizen Marat thought it would be time for some hard data …

This consisted of a preliminary expedition to take a few sample noise levels in the north-western part of the town in mid-afternoon on Boxing Day; a day one might reasonable anticipate to be one of the quietest of the year. What follows is preliminary data only, but we think instructive. More sampling will be done in the weeks ahead.

Noise levels were collected using a simply protocol (stand still and point microphone towards the highway 😉 ) with the “Decibel X” app for iPhone. Decibel X is a highly rated app for this purpose, you will find reviews on the internet. Quote: This highly-rated app turns your smartphone into a pre-calibrated, accurate and easily portable sound level meter. It has a standard measurement range from 30 to 130 dB. It boasts many features for measuring the intensity of sound around you built into a nicely-designed, intuitive user interface. Also: “Decibel X” is one of very few noise meter apps on the market that has highly reliable, pre-calibrated measurements and supports dBA, dBC. It turns your iOS device into a professional sound level meter, precisely measures the sound pressure level (SPL) all around you.  

NOTE: This is not a professional sound metering system, it is however highly indicative of real-life experience and more than adequate for the purposes of this experiment. (** HOWEVER – we have now been offered use of a professional sound meter and so will take this exercise further during January 🙂 )

Measurements were taken at around 15h00 on Wednesday 26 December 2018 at four sites shown on the following map.

  • Site 1 – St-Andrews almost 1200 feet / 8 houses distance from the highway (measured on Google map)
  • Site 2 – St-Andrews separated from the highway by a narrow strip of trees. Conveniently a train was passing when this measurement was taken.
  • Site 3 – Western part of Surrey separated from the highway by the widest strip of natural woodland in the town. Approximate width 200 feet (measured on Google map). A wooded area of 100 feet width has been estimated to reduce sound levels by around 5dB. Highway traffic only.
  • Site 4 – Middle of John-Weir Park

Results/Data

Site 1

The measurement was taken 1200 feet from the southern edge of the highway at about 8 properties from the house closest to the highway. There was no passing traffic on St-Andrews at the time, all traffic noise came from the highway.

Average sound level was 70dB with a minimum of 58.7dB and a maximum of 77.2db over a time period of 25 seconds.

Note: a train was approaching but was not passing while this measurement was taken. It is estimated that the train was no closer than the John-Abbot Campus.

Site 2

Measured at the top of St-Andrews at a level with the nearest houses to the highway. A train was passing at the time. It is worth mentioning that the ambient noise level while the train passed was such that conversation was difficult.

Average sound level of 77.3dB with minimum 71.4dB, maximum 81.1dB and a single peak of 85.8dB over a 53 second period.

Site 3

Measured on Surrey separated from the highway by a belt of trees about 200 feet deep. The train had passed and all noise was from the highway.

Average sound level of 67dB with minimum 61.8dB, maximum 80.6dB over a period of 40 seconds.

It is inferred from these data together with those from sites 1 and 2 that the strip of woodland separating the sampling site from the highway is sufficient to attenuate the sound as measured in front of the nearest houses to some degree. The reduction could be as much 10dB but more data points are required before this can be conclusively demonstrated.

Site 4

A final sample was taken in the middle of John Weir Park. Again, main noise source was highway traffic. As anticipated this was the quietest site and the noise levels were closer those of the WHO recommendations (q.v.)

Average sound level of 54.7dB with minimum 50.4dB, maximum 67.3dB over a period of 37 seconds.

Implications

** The WHO recommends that for a healthy environment the traffic noise level should not exceed 53dB during the day or 45 dB at night.

Daytime average noise levels in this single sampling exercise on a “quiet” day with low traffic flow were observed to be well above these recommended levels and very markedly above when a train is passing. The presence of a belt of trees 200 feet deep does seem to provide a degree of sound attenuation.

This is no more than a sample exercise and not intended to be a foundation for policy development. Nevertheless, it is indicative of exceptionally high noise levels in a real-world situation. It is intended to expand on this initial exercise and collect more data from various point sin the town using a standardised measurement protocol and under different environmental conditions. It is hoped that these data will be helpful to citizens affected by traffic/rail noise in their environment.

It is pleasing to see that funds have been allocated by Council for stage 1 of 4 of the installation of sound mitigation measures (berm/wall). Many people will be interested to learn from Council what sound level attenuation is anticipated to result from whatever solution is finally approved and installed.


WHO Recommendations

The World Health Organisation recommend the following standards for noise from road traffic (quote):

For average noise exposure, the GDG strongly recommends reducing noise levels produced by road traffic below 53 dB L den , as road traffic noise above this level is associated with adverse health effects.

For night noise exposure, the GDG strongly recommends reducing noise levels produced by road traffic during night time below 45 dB L night , as road traffic noise above this level is associated with adverse effects on sleep.

To reduce health effects, the GDG strongly recommends that policy-makers implement suitable measures to reduce noise exposure from road traffic in the population exposed to levels above the guideline values for average and night noise exposure. For specific interventions, the GDG recommends reducing noise both at the source and on the route between the source and the affected population by changes in infrastructure.

Environmental Noise Guidelines (2018) World Health Organisation

The full report can be consulted at this link:

http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/383921/noise-guidelines-eng.pdf?ua=1

Council Meeting 11 December 2018

Two back-to-back council meetings were held in 11 December. The first to adopt the budget for 2019 followed by a regular meeting of council.

A summary of the matters discussed can be downloaded by using the following link (note: click the file name to read the notes in your browser or the green button to download a copy for your records):

These notes include:

  • Details of the budget for 2019 and the taxes you will pay
  • Money set aside for the sound wall ($2,000,000) in 2019
  • Money set aside for improvements to the Town Hall in 2020 ($2,000,000)
  • Final, final, final plans approved for Bertold Park and the shared facilities 
  • Possibility of future childrens’ summer camps in town
  • Increased remunerations for councillors
  • … and LOTS more besides

Bertold Park – Allocation of Funding

A correspondent present at last night’s special council meeting sent the following summary of proceedings:


The purpose of the meeting was to approve an allocation to be used as required for the early surveillance of the by-laws for dogs in Bertold park in order to send a message to the users which include also non-residents that the Town is serious about its by-laws. 

Surveillance will be adjusted on a week by week basis starting the first week of November. It is probable that much of the use will be in Spring when usage is higher than in winter. A maximum amount of $50K (going also into 2019) was approved. 

The approach for surveillance was based on the comments of citizens which include mainly non-dog-owners but also local dog owners and their association who have equally been active in trying to advise people of the proper usage. The vote was in favour of the surveillance budget with one councillor voting against (councillor Beauchamp). 

The overall plan will not only include a shared area for the smaller part of the total Bertold Park area for the Canine Recreational Area (CRA), but furthermore the consultation and planning for the entire park namely the Family park side as well. The intent is to have a full plan for the Spring. It should be noted that the fact of having a CRA to one side in no way interferes with the fact that the main part will be planned for the Family park aspects. Both aspects will be considered.

It should also be noted that just like the Town Hall park shoreline stabilization, Bertold Park will also undergo a shoreline stabilization as an entity (again not a specific project for the CRA but shoreline stabilization that is required for the entire area).

As for future expenses of setting up a CRA it would be similar to setting it up elsewhere and therefore the overly-focused comments just due to a shared compromise option with the intent of this part of citizens also enjoying a very small waterfront as all others, is no different than the Town ‘s current and past contributions to other activities used by specific segments of the population including non-residents that are members of the various local clubs and activities. The costs of the entire park plans including both areas will be developed over the winter also based on input for the family part. 

There are still many areas to be defined both in terms of surveillance and enforcement (in a neutral and professional manner) as well final plans whether for the CRA or the rest of the family park. The meeting in question was simply for the approval of a surveillance budget to be used as required based on usage which will of course be low in winter and start up again in the Spring. 

Bertold Park – We Have a Decision

At the special meeting of council last night (15 October) a final decision was taken as to the future of Bertold Park and the provision of off-leash facilities for dogs. It was a close thing when it came to the vote but it was finally decided that Bertold Park will become a “Shared Facility Park” and will adopt a slightly amended version of the proposal nominated Plan B at last week’s information session (see notes of that meeting available on this site).

Thus –

  1. The western side of the park will be fenced for an off leash dog run.
  2. The eastern side is to be developed to provide “family” facilities with picnic tables and shore access etc
  3. No dogs, either on or off leash, will be permitted in the eastern side of the park unless they are being taken directly to or from the fenced area.
  4. A gated car parking area for people with dogs will be created at the northern end of the off-leash run.
  5. Use of the off-leash area will only be available to members of a group still to be formed – details of who is qualified to join this group and what fees might be incurred are yet to be decided. The question of allowing non-residents to become members is up in the air.
  6. There will be strict enforcement of the rules.
  7. The winter of 2018-2019 will be the last season that an ice rink for hockey will be built in the park.

In voting the councillors were divided and the final decision was taken by the Mayor using her casting vote. Councillors Lowensteyn, Beauchamp and Doherty were in favour of the park being an entirely family park with no dog provision plus the creation of a separate dog off-leash facility elsewhere in the town at an as yet unspecified location. Councillors Ryan, Phelps and Gilpin voted for the shared use described above. The Mayor supported the shared use option. All councillors gave detailed explanations of their decisions.

In her comments the Mayor hoped that the decision taken provides a “healing compromise” that will enable all users of the park to work together in the future.

Estimated costs of this project are in the region of $500K with additional expenses for enforcement once completed. It was noted that the creation of any off-leash facility elsewhere in the town would incur comparable costs. It was confirmed in answer to a question from the floor that no trees will be felled in the park.

A second special meeting of Council will be held on 23 October to approve the implementation plans and timeline that will now be finalised by administration staff, to appropriate funds from the town surplus and to enact certain amendments to relevant bylaws that will be needed. The project will then go to tender and installation of new, more attractive, fencing and the parking area will be done next spring. The current temporary fencing will remain throughout the coming winter.

In answer to a question from the floor about future locations for the ice rink we learned that the town is in discussion with local schools on this matter and will report details at some future time.

A Shared solution for Bertold Park

Summary from the Public consultation 11 October 2018

Proposals and Options for a Shared solution for Bertold Park

Note and Disclaimer: Since we do not have a copy of the presentation, this summary is simply some highlights in order to inform citizens of what options were presented and some reactions from citizens. The sketched “map” to illustrate the 2 options are not precise as they were quickly sketched during the presentation. The picture(s) taken by iPhone are not very clear however one version has been included for information and illustration.

The mandate given to the consultants (HEDA) who designed the Westmount dog park was to analyze “all” the very extensive complaints and issues as well as to take into consideration some best practices. All material submitted by citizens from letters to one full proposal with extensive details was analyzed and a site analysis was performed. The criteria used included (but are not limited to) an average of 32,290 sq. ft, distance from residences, parking and shade, access for snow removal etc. Some additional criteria were added such as lake access, set-back, enough parking, no off-leash dogs outside the fenced area which resulted in a recommendation of a fenced parking area and access to members only.

In addition to the actual canine recreational area options, the containment of dogs when swimming in the water was also addressed. This included various options (with no final recommendation however ideas were proposed). Ideas such as a floating deck which would not only contain the dogs but also possibly provide access by people and at the end floats to contain the dogs. These would be taken away in the winter where access to the lake from the area is no longer possible which also addresses safety issues.

Not included in the presentation or first phase option illustrations were ideas such as double gated entry as many dog areas have, benches, open roof shade area, drinking water for people and dogs, and additional garbage cans. These were not included in a first phase and were simply ideas for reflection.

The two options that were proposed were Option A: canine recreational area on the East side of the park and Option B: canine recreational area on the West side of the park. Option B was very similar to one of the options that was examined by PRAC and also similar to the proposal that was submitted by the Canine Friends GECAC association which also included considerations of containing the dogs once in the water (although a simpler method).

Although we were not able to read much of the detailed information on the slide the consultant while answering a question from a citizen on size, indicated that Option A was 41,350 sq. ft and Option B was 42,500 sq. feet. Note: we quote this under all reservation as it was not legible where we were located. It is also not clear if this area includes the fencedin parking space or only the recreational area.

The following rough sketches taken quickly on-site provides a visual idea of the two options. A small iPhone picture is included for the reader to be able to have a rough visual comparative view of the sketches



Phone picture of the HETA slide showing both options. Note the white lines indicate the general park area and the red lines indicate the Canine recreational area. Also, an explanatory note on the division inside the canine area: a fence close to the water can be closed in winter when the floats or docks (whichever options would be considered) are taken away for the winter.

Question period followed and as expected there were two camps of opinions; those who have since the beginning clearly stated that they want no compromise and no sharing and that any canine area must be expulsed from Bertold Park. And there were those who strongly supported a shared compromise canine area for whom this small slice of waterfront area (used for the last 30 years) was extremely important. The comments were extensive and will not be covered in this document (the consultation was close to 3 hours). It was pointed out that the canine community considered this as an activity not just for their dogs but also for their families, kids, elderly and that a 6% of the total waterfront of Baie-d’Urfé with a small strip of land was not much to ask even if this recreational activity may not be recognized by some citizens. Many of the comments attempted to pitch “humans versus dogs” or “kids against dogs” meaning that both were incompatible. The Canine families indicated that these were true family activities for them and not mutually exclusive.

Citizens were asked to comment and indicate a preference of Option A or B (or neither). Those who were strongly for maintaining a shared multi-purpose park for canine families were all for Option B (with the exception of one citizen who felt both options had their merits). Therefore, for the Canine community a strong preference (nearly unanimous) was Option B. For those who were against any compromise or sharing (multi-purpose park) the message was clear – it was clearly stated that neither option was acceptable and since the beginning to them no compromise should be considered. Due to the very controversial nature of the discussion we have decided not to attempt to document all comments as either side may feel that their points of view were not wellrepresented.

Although detailed comments are not being included, we do wish to include certain points that were important to both parties. The main point of focus that was highlighted by both parties was the need for enforcement (which as a side-note most successful canine recreational areas have in some manner). This is where an indication was given that these points on management and enforcement will be examined and taken into consideration.

The question of cost was also raised and part of the next steps will include a high-level estimate of possible costs since any canine recreational area (regardless of where it is located) would require an investment. It was pointed out by one citizen that this recreational activity was no different to the incumbent canine families than other activities in Baie-d’Urfé (private clubs with limited members including a certain number of nonresidents) where the Town covered the basic infrastructure and certain maintenance costs. A citizen also questioned on what the process would be in terms of next steps (including the approval or not of any solution whether it be Option A, B or neither) and related cost estimates if applicable.

The meeting was closed with Mayor Tutino thanking all for their frank input and that a Caucus meeting would take place on Friday morning (12 October) followed by a Special Council meeting on Monday the 15 th October

Council Meeting – 9 October – Summary

The link below leads to notes of matters discussed at the 9 October Council Meeting. Amongst other topics there is information concerning:

  • Bertold Park and the Dog Facility
  • Restrictions to on-street parking in the town
  • A new animal bylaw
  • Receipt of grants to assist funding town developments
  • A Drainage Master Plan for the town
  • Short-term (AirB&B style) rentals
  • Environmental matters

Notes – 20181009 – Download a summary of the meeting from this link

A Vision for John-Weir Park

Ideas to start a conversation …

The felling this week of an old tree on the western side of John-Weir Park and the forthcoming tree-focussed environment day planned by the town in the park on 13 October set me to thinking about the future of this green space.

Traditionally the park has had three uses …

  1. A breathing space between the houses
  2. A childrens’ play area with climbing frames and swings
  3. A softball pitch

The third of those uses was removed in spring of 2018 when the facility was removed from the west island league that used to play there. It was said that this pitch was henceforth to be made available for play by children or youth teams (official or informal) but after a long, hot summer it is clearly evident that there is no interest in such use and so the sand sits there gradually sprouting weeds and looking sad and unloved. I live very close and pass the park daily – in the past six months I have one father and son throwing balls there and that’s it.

So – how could the green space best be managed to serve the community? We know that replacement trees for the ashes lost in the wooded band on the southern side are to be planted. That is excellent and so long as the saplings are not vandalised will be a good thing … but what use is all that close-mown grass?  Grass is really a boring, sterile monocrop that adds nothing to the interest or biodiversity of parks and attracts almost no wildlife. Here are some things to think about … remembering that walking in forests, often these days called “forest bathing”, is restorative for the weary soul.

First, the park as it stands today is illustrated by the satellite image heading this article.

Option 1

Double the size of the existing wooded area by planting a suitable mix of native trees and shrubs. This will increase the biodiversity in this location and attract more birds and interesting insects and flowers to the area while maintianing some of the grassed area for those who like that sort of thing. In fall the colours would be enjoyed by everyone and the “forest” would link to and continue the green corridor running from the Cemetery and along the two footpaths linking St-Andrews and Oxford.  The ball pitch would still be available for children if a local group get together in future years.

Option 2

Just get rid of the sand and the baseball pitch altogether. Realistically, is it going to be much used in the years ahead? Plant some of the area with taller native grasses, milkweed etc to attract butterflies and other interesting insects – a larger version of the highly successful area on Stafford that has been maturing for three or four years now.

This is what Option 2 might look like … double the area for trees but still an open area

Option 3

Going full hog and creating (slowly, trees don’t spring up fully formed in a season) are small suburban forest full of interesting birds and other wildlife and with trails amongst the trees to walk in the summer shade.

The children’s play area remains untouched and could even be extended.

 

Just ideas – what do you think? Trees or boring grass In Perpetuity.

** Since posting this piece the town have announced a public meeting in the Red Barn at 7pm on Tuesday 26 September where they will unveil their plans for the park … interesting.

Genuinely Independent Information & Comment from Baie-D'Urfé