UMPD nabs tunnel explorers

University police found five “urban explorers” in steam tunnels.

Kaitlin Walker

 A group of five people, including two University of Minnesota students, was cited for trespassing in underground steam tunnels Sunday morning on the East Bank.

Dave Husby and four friends were caught by University police while exploring the tunnels Sunday. Husby called himself an urban explorer âÄî âÄúinquisitive peopleâÄù who enjoy finding and exploring the many tunnels, caves and abandoned buildings that exist in cities.

âÄúThese have really great historical value,âÄù Husby said. âÄúThese hidden nooks and crannies are an important part of the Twin CitiesâÄô industrial history.âÄù

Husby said most of the fun comes from finding new places and facing the challenge of getting in. He said they never damage property or break sealed entrances.

âÄúOnce weâÄôre in, weâÄôre only there to appreciate,âÄù Husby said. âÄúWe take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.âÄù

University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said there are risks to being in the tunnels, and people could be seriously injured if they donâÄôt know what they are doing.

Police also keep people out to protect the different systems operating in the tunnels, Miner said.

The underground network of tunnels carry heat from the steam plants on the river to the buildings on campus, Jerome Malmquist, Facilities ManagementâÄôs director of energy management, said.

Miner said most people who attempt to explore the steam tunnels get caught.

The tunnels are guarded by security cameras, motion-sensitive alarms, heavy doors, gates and padlocks. Malmquist said they rarely have incidents with people entering the steam tunnels.

âÄúItâÄôs pretty darn seldom,âÄù Malmquist said. âÄúWe had a couple groups caught a long time ago, and then it was really quiet.âÄù

According to the police report, the group was seen on security cameras by Central Security, who then alerted police.

The group got into the tunnels around midnight through an open door on the roof of a building on campus, Husby said. They were underground near Burton Hall when police caught up to them around 1 a.m., according to the report.

Most of the group had never been urban exploring before Sunday. Ross Ma, a science and engineering student at the University, heard about the steam tunnels while living in the residence halls.

All five were cited for a misdemeanor trespass, which carries up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Miner said it was doubtful that they would receive the maximum sentence without a previous record.

Ma said the trip was worth it for the experience, but not the consequences.