After two years, Verizon Wireless has won approval from the National Park Service to build a 138-foot-tall cellular tower in Sequoia National Park to improve service, reported the Fresno Bee. The right-of-way permit for Verizon to build the tower is effective for 10 years. The tower will be a monopine design, the first of its kind inside Sequoia National Park, according to data from the FCC. Verizon currently has a tower in neighboring Kings Canyon National Park.
“Many visitors and park staff will view the service as a welcome benefit for purposes of accessibility, coordination, communication, and safety,” the Park Service said in a statement.
There is opposition to the tower, though, and the Park Service noted that public outcry included concerns about how adding more cellular service inside the park could detract from why many people visit in the first place: “solitude, self-reliance, natural soundscapes, and the ability to disconnect from technology, particularly in wilderness.”
Other complaints included concern about exposure to electromagnetic frequencies from the tower, a possible increase in visitors illegally using cell phones while driving, and disruption of peace and quiet by people talking loudly on their phones, reported the Bee.
Disagreement also exists over the design of the tower. One opinion is that the monopine is the right fit, noting that “the tower’s presence would not be very noticeable, as it would blend in amongst the trees.” On the flip side, one commenter wrote, “These towers do not resemble a pine tree and would easily take away from the beautiful nature that is displayed all around Sequoia National Park.”
According to the Park Service’s environmental assessment, “The NPS has determined that the long-term health, safety, and communication benefits associated with enhanced communications” — including better ability to report emergencies and non-emergency situations by phone — “outweighs the disruption some visitors may experience in response to other visitors’ use of cell phones in public spaces.”
April 8, 2019