Kenai residents living near the local raceway will rest easier this summer thanks to a 15-year-old Nikiski student's project.
Hannah Tauriainen's Caring for the Kenai project is focused on a problem that has stymied neighbors near the Twin Cities Raceway. As the Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions prepares for its 2011 season, the organization also is preparing to break ground on Tauriainen's project -- a wall designed to help mitigate noise from the racetrack.
This winter, nearby residents and racers packed the parking lot at Kenai's City Hall to testify about noise issues stemming from the racetrack.
At a city council meeting in January, raceway neighbor Steven Phelps testified about the need for noise reduction.
"If there was no noise, there would be no problem," he said.
Tauriainen's project helps address that issue. She said she worked with the Racing Lions to make the project fit the track's needs, and not just the needs of the neighbors.
"I'm kind of molding my plan to what they want," she said.
Barney Phillips, a vice president for the Racing Lions, said the specifics of the wall's design are still up for discussion.
"A lot of her ideas are going into what we want to do," he said.
Phillips said he thought the wall would make a difference.
"We've heard of these sound walls being built in the Lower 48," he said.
In a few more weeks, the Racing Lions will work on installing the wall.
Phillips said the organization plans to build the wall and start the racing season later this month.
"Hopefully the weather will work with us and we'll be able to pull that off," he said.
Tauriainen, a freshman, was a semifinalist in the Caring for the Kenai competition this year.
Her project has a second benefit. The wall will be made of tires that otherwise would have been taken to the dump. Tires were Tauriainen's original focus, but she wasn't sure what'd she do with them.
"I really had no idea what I was going to do," she said.
Her dad helped her brainstorm how the tires could address the sound issue.
Tauriainen said she had to do a lot of her own research on tires and sound to get the project going, but she added that she has gotten a lot of help on the specifics of what the Racing Lions need from the group itself.
"Getting to work with them and knowing that it's actually going to be put into action is pretty exciting," she said.
Members of the race organization will do most of the building. Tauriainen said she wants to help, but she might be out of town.
Phillips said he hoped Tauriainen could be there to see the finished project.
The finished wall isn't the end of Tauriainen's plan for tires at the raceway. This summer's plan just calls for a partial wall, but after the other work is done at the track, it might make sense to build one all the way around to help keep vandals away.
"A giant 10- to 12-foot wall of tires tends to keep people out," she said.
Whether or not Tauriainen will spearhead that effort remains to be seen.
She said she wasn't sure if she'd enter the competition again next year, because she doesn't know what her schedule will look like. She's involved in student government and drama at Nikiski Middle/High School, and said sophomore classes will probably be harder than freshman classes. But she'd like to participate again if it works out.
"It's a really cool way to get teens involved with the community and the environment," Tauriainen said.
Molly Dischner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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