Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Disc Golf Series: Yulga DGC

Commissioned by the city of Stevens Point in 1999, Yulga is a masterpiece of a disc golf course.

I first played Yulga in 2006 when I was a freshman. I just remember all the trees I hit... oh the trees!

1. I never thought I would be playing Yulga in 2012. This last time I went was two weeks ago right after my wedding on the 6th. I just remember the smell of autumn in the cool morning air. I started the game poorly, but ended pretty well. If you could marry a Disc Golf Course, you would marry Yulga. It's always a little difficult, but it's close by, fun, and pretty clean.

2. This is a professionally made course. The turns are hard but the distances aren't too bad. There are three different "courses" within the 18 hole course. The Red measures about 4,300 feet while the Blue is somewhere around 5,200. White rests somewhere in the middle. The course has a distinct flatness to it. The holes, which are mostly carved out of pine stands, require a really good range of throws. Be prepared to rumble with some trees on this course. 7/10

3.Yulga is a great example of a city helping both tourists and the environment. The course rests right across the street from the Hull Town Hall. The area is building up a sizable subdivided population east of Stevens Point. One reason people started moving out there was because of the higher taxes in Stevens Point and cheaper property values. Now the area is being taken over by roads and houses. Yulga, however, stands apart.The park also rests  on the Green Circle trail. I would love to use the Green Circle for an outdoor education class. Riding bikes, disc golfing and discovering nature would be awesome. I guess everyone has a little gym teacher in them.

I know that Disc Golf courses have upkeep costs and an impact on the environment. There is also vandalism on the course. People leave beer bottles and garbage on the ground as well. It's because of people like that we (society) can't have nice things... no matter what responsible people do, sone douchebag is just going to do whatever he wants. People just disregard other people and object just for their own self-interest.

How do you turn that into a teachable moment? How can you approach the jerks and educate them? Can you educate them? I just wish people wouldn't be so ignorant. Is that too much to ask of my other members of society?

Like, serious, I need to rant about this. What is still up with these climate deniers and these ignorant individuals who drive around in ridiculous vehicles just being polluting turd muffins? Yes, I understand you think you're from the South even though you have Wisconsin licsense plates. I get the fact you feel loyalty to something that doesn't exist anymore and  that thing was one of the last bastions of racism no matter how much you complain about states' rights!! I get it, really. We all like STUPID THINGS.

But could you PLEASE just care? For a little bit? You aren't gay because you care. You aren't a communist because you want to care. You aren't supporting a "nanny state" if you care about what happens to the planet and all the things on it. If you really think preserving the environment is the work of the "nanny state", then you obviously need a nanny.



Oh that's for the...

Park District Trucks? Really??

*Insert foot in mouth*

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Disc Golf Series: Standing Rocks Park

So as part of my Environmental Education observations, I have visited a number of Disc Golf Courses in Central Wisconsin to assess them in very rough terms.  These terms will go as follows.

1. Personal Reflections on Experiences.
2. Quality/ Difficulty of Course
3. Environmental Impact.

I welcome you to 
My first stop in the disc golf series was Standing Rocks Park in Plover,WI. As a resident (and season pass holder) at Standing Rocks, I can say with no doubt that it is superior to all other courses in a fifty mile radius. I have been playing Standing Rocks since 2007. What was at first a 19 hole adventure that had no real defined beginning became a 3-loop disc extravaganza for anyone looking for a quick nine to an all day disc fest. 

1. Everything at Standing Rocks is such near perfect. Even the deer stand next to the pin for you to aim at (not that you should). Standing Rocks also doubles as a winter sports area with a very nice lodge on top of being a Disc Golf Park/Mountain Biking Trail. The land is very hilly and is dotted with large rocks all around the course. In short, if you are looking for great Wisconsin Wilderness, your search is over at Standing Rocks. This Portage County maintained park is also home to a great dog area for all you canine lovers. There are many upsides to a day at Standing Rocks. The negatives? You might run into a lot of bugs in the summer and fall times. The Mosquitos can be rough. 10/10

2. This course is difficult. Along with it being one of the best courses in Central Wisconsin, it might also be the most difficult. Many holes are carved out in very narrow gaps that forces the thrower to focus on accuracy. The newest addition, the West Loop, is a prime example that a course can challenge every bit of your ability. Along with 400+ feet holes, many of these long ones have very small paths to the pin. The goal here is to be careful. Hole 8 &9 on the east loop can prove tricky as a steep hill can turn an otherwise good throw into a rolling catastrophe. 9/10

3. The course does not use Cement tees, and all boards are wooden. The crafters of the course did a good job trying to blend in the forest with the course. Not many trees are taken out per year (compared to other courses), but the recent addition of the West Loop meant that more had to be done to make the course usable in regard to Disc Golf. The lodge on site is wood heated and used periodically throughout the year. The lack of asphalt lots helps maintain a better ecology. The park is, however, located at least 7-10 minutes from the Interstate. This driving time can have an impact. It is encouraged that people bike out to the park. This is facilitated by the Tomorrow River trail that runs close to the park. One thing to mention is the large sand mines nearby the park, making the area a very important carbon sink for the local industry and agriculture.  7/10

I almost hit this guy with my drive!

Standing Rocks is quite an excellent experience for just about anyone!  Enjoy the pictures of fall!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Spinning Across America: Wind Turbines.

This summer, my Wife and I took a trip with her parents across the United States. As musicians for a wedding in Utah, we decided that a family driving trip across the country would be a somewhat cost and fun way to travel. I actually have never been west of Minneapolis/Davenport. As we were driving west on I-80, the rolling hills of Iowa greeted us with an enjoyable site.
This picture was taken on a long stretch of road outside Davenport. I thought the contrast was so very interesting.

Wind energy has taken hold as a growing resource for cities and towns that have ample air flow for much of the year. This form of technology is a great example of progress towards a more sustainable future.

This piece was found at Energy.gov as part of the Department of Energy's annual report on energy consumption and statistics:

The report finds that in 2011, roughly 6,800 megawatts (MW) of new wind power capacity was added to the U.S. grid, a 31 percent increase from 2010 installations.  The United States’ wind power capacity reached 47,000 MW by the end of 2011 and has since grown to 50,000 MW, enough electricity to power 13 million homes annually or as many as in Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Alabama, and Connecticut combined. The country’s cumulative installed wind energy capacity grew 16 percent from 2010, and has increased more than18-fold since 2000.  The report also finds that six states now meet more than 10 percent of their total electricity needs with wind power.

This is really good news! However, an article from Minnesota Public Radio written by Rob Reimer has this to say:

Rural dwellers are "asked" to host wind turbines and to pay for transmission lines to furnish city dwellers with green power from wind. Investors make huge profits while taxpayers and ratepayers get to pay 20 percent more for their power. So who is this technology benefiting? For exactly whom is it "free?"
Financially, wind energy is a losing proposition for most everyone who does not directly profit from the manufacture, siting, servicing, removal, financing or taxing of turbines, or from the disbursal of the electricity produced by them.

The wind boon benefits the turbine industry, not the general public. The industry is a terrible waste of resources: Human, physical, financial, temporal and aesthetic. These finite resources could be better spent transforming the physical infrastructure of our society toward sustainable energy production and use, and toward creating jobs that benefit the entire society.

This brings up a tremendously good point. Though Wind turbines might be seen as a sustainable method of energy, the amount of work and capital that goes into making a turbine part of the electrical grid can sometimes do more harm than good. Also, storage for all that energy is at a premium. Something has to be done to help make the sustainable energy market perform on the economic scale.

So now we start to understand all the moving pieces in the puzzle. Energy is an important aspect of our society, but how can we create the infrastructure that is needed to produce enough of that energy while sustaining the planet? I think wind energy will prove very useful for communities who live in rural and suburban areas that have access to open fields and windy days. However, each region is slightly different. What might work in Illinois is not going to work for Colorado. Arizona has a much greater potential for Photovoltaics while areas on the West Coast might benefit from a Geothermal plant or ten. As a nation, we need to start developing these technologies to help all of us save our planet while preserving our energy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Schmeeckle- A project that's worth it

This fall I had the pleasure to join a few friends of mine on a wonderful trip through the Schmec kle reserve near UWSP's campus. If someone has not been there, I will gladly take them.

Schmeeckle has been a staple of campus since I first became a student. This history of the reserve is very interesting. Like most of Wisconsin in the 50's, the land was used for farming. Turns out the topsoil couldn't handle the crops, so farmers just sort of deserted it. The University bought up some land in the 60's and then by 1974 the land was proposed for a reclamation project.

It has been a stunning success. With the help of Sentry Insurance (this might be the only time I would say they helped), Lake Joanis was created and the Schmeeckle wildlife refuge was born! As a student, I spent a lot of time by Lake Joanis. I remember great days swimming in the lake, walking on the ice to the island, climbing to the tree house, and seeing so much wildlife. It creates a wonderful buffer between the campus and the Sentry building/golf course. After working at the golf course for so long, you forget the majesty that is the forest in between.

Lately, the area has been hit by drought. The new Moses Creek revitalization project, though looks wonderful, is horribly dry. There are many spots along the way that are just barren where months ago there was water.

It's funny. In 2008, we have the worst collapse of the economy since 1929. In 2012, we have the worst drought since 1934. The main problem with this comparison is that it is leading towards something that isn't good. In fact, all around the world the tension can be felt. Whether it's worrying about feeding the hungry, trying to reverse the adverse impacts of climate change, or simply trying to stop the bloodshed of war, humanity isn't doing so hot. Actually, we're plenty hot enough as it is.

I will continually do my best in preserving water. Fresh water is a commodity that shouldn't be wasted. I will start watching where my water goes and make sure that if there are any leaks in faucets or hoses I will replace them. Saving water happens one drop at a time. It's also something everyone can do. I will affirm myself a water saver!!

Here's a few pictures and a nice video on water conservation.