Every morning, Amy Rosenthal and her 15-year-old terrier poodle mix take a 45-minute walk in and around downtown Minneapolis. About 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 13, their ever-changing route brought them to the West River Parkway, where they headed east under the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, toward First Bridge Park.
That's when she heard the very unusual message emanating from the little speaker affixed to the bright orange "Trail Closed Ahead" sign.
"This was a shock," Rosenthal told Bring Me The News. "I had to cover my dog's ears."
Instead of the usual, canned mention of the trail being closed, a male's voice spent about 10 seconds explicitly describing his genitals and masturbation. Below you can listen to the censored version which is ... still pretty filthy.
(We've put the uncensored version of the video at the bottom of this page if for no other reason than to prove it's legit, but we wouldn't urge you to listen to it).
Rosenthal, who has lived in her current downtown neighborhood for 19 years, said she's never experienced anything quite like what she did that morning.
"At first when I heard it, I was in shock," she said. "I went 'What did I just hear?'"
Around 10:30 a.m. the device still played the obscene message every time it detected nearby motion from a pedestrian or cyclist.
Bring Me The News emailed the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) for comment about the recording, and by 11 a.m. the audio had been disabled and the message no longer played. Around noon, the MPRB confirmed the audio box has been turned off, adding that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is responsible for oversight of the sign and audio device. The MnDOT project manager "will need to either re-record the message or remove it all together," MPRB said.
"If they keep using it, they will need to monitor the signage for any more tampering," the statement added.
A MnDOT spokesperson told Bring Me The News Wednesday afternoon the audio device was placed there to provide "important guidance for people who are visually impaired" while construction work continued on the 3rd Street Bridge.
"In this instance, someone unfortunately manipulated the recording," the spokesperson said, adding MnDOT staff "immediately corrected the issue" once they heard about it.
With West River Parkway set to reopens this coming weekend, the device will be removed soon. The agency will be "looking into better, tamper-proof technology," the spokesperson added.
The speaker system is an Empco-Lite Model400ADA audible device, designed to provide audio guidance for the visually impaired. It can be mounted on cones, signs or other safety devices, according to the manufacturer's website, and automatically plays a custom audio message when it detects motion within 15 feet.
The device comes with a built-in microphone and speaker, and allows for messages up to 60 seconds long.
But for Rosenthal, the 10 second-clip she heard was more than enough.
"It’s the first time I've ever done a double take," she said.
Here is the uncensored version of the recording.