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Site First Impressions: Tower Site

 

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The view of the Tower Site from the driveway. On the left is Highway 27 and on the right you can see the bottom on the tower.

Ben Lee, interviewed by Amy Waananen

AW: So Ben, tell me about where you are.

BL: Well, I am standing here looking at the site which is between the microwave tower and Highway 27. The tower is at the top of a pretty large hill. The cars are whizzing at by on the highway just south of where we’re standing, probably going at least 60 mph. The site itself runs along a fairly steep hill that is probably around 30 meters wide, sloping down from a line of spruces planted around the tower to the road.

AW: What does it look like?

BL: It looks a lot like any other roadside in the area; I notice that there are a lot of invasives, especially as compared to some of the other, more managed, sites that we’ve seen like Staffanson Prairie Preserve and Hegg Lake. Brome and Poa are the dominant grasses here, and I can see species like bird’s foot trefoil, alfalfa, and red clover as well.

AW: Uh oh. Any native species?

BL: A few! I see a native pea plant and yarrow flowering. Hopefully there are some Echinacea angustifolia in there too, but we can’t see them yet. Plus, I can see some bumble bees flying over the tops of the grasses and I hear birds in the grove of trees on the north side of the hill.

AW: What do you think the history of the landscape is?

BL: I imagine that there has been quite a bit of construction around here. You can see how they shaped this hill to lower the grade of the road, and there was probably quite a bit of disturbance from installing the tower. There is a strip of land that is probably about 3 feet wide running from the road up towards the tower where vegetation looks sparse or stunted. I wonder if there is an underground wire there. Other than that though, looking around I can see all the undulating hills in the area and can see how large of an impression glaciers left in the area.

AW: What is your overall impression of the site?

BL: Well, it is a small patchof grassland in the middle of a busy area. The lack of native prairie species is probably due to both the disturbances due to construction and the lack of management to promote prairie species—it is unlikely that this particular spot ever gets burned being so close to both the road and the tower. Although I don’t see any Echinacea here right now, I hope to see some later in the summer. Overall, this site seems characteristic of much of the potential habitat for Echinacea today—fragmented and literally shaped by human influences. It’ll be interesting to see how it is similar and dissimilar to prairie remnants such as Staffanson Prairie Preserve andprairie restoration sites like Hegg Lake.

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