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Verizon Wireless Wants Cellphone Tower Near Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park


An 80-foot cellphone tower pales in size next to giant sequoias. NPS photo by Alex Picavet.

Can you hear me now?

Verizon Wireless wants an affirmative answer to that question if you're in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, and says it needs a cellphone tower possibly 80 feet tall in Kings Canyon to get it.

A short notice that ran in the Federal Register on April 1 says Verizon wants to locate the tower on Park Ridge near Grant Grove in Kings Canyon.

According to the notice, "Park Ridge is an established telecommunications site for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Current structures on Park Ridge include: two concrete block structures containing NPS and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) communications equipment with power generators; a 20-foot fire lookout tower; two 40-foot lattice towers with NPS and USFS telecommunications equipment; and a 30-foot tower on the NPS communications building supporting a passive reflector used for land-line service operated by Verizon California."

Of course, if Verizon receives approval to locate the tower there, and does indeed install one 80 feet tall, it would dwarf all those other facilities. Beyond that, though, is the question of whether there's a need or a desire for greater cellphone coverage in the two parks?

That, of course, is an aesthetic question as much a philosophical and even practical one. Ever since the world became "wired" it seems you can't leave home and get away from the rest of the world. Should you have cellphone coverage while hiking down a trail in a national park? Should you have to endure someone else yapping away on their phone in a national park setting?

Of course, it's nice to be reachable in an emergency or for business purposes. And where there's cellphone coverage, there's also some form of wireless Internet available as well.

But is this a safety issue, a commercial one, or one to better society in general? If it's a safety issue, how did society manage to survive all these years without cellphone coverage in the parks? And how would greater cell coverage in the parks better society?

Questions aside, it's now up to the staff at the two parks to evaluate the request under the "National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Preservation Act, The Telecommunications Act of 1996, and National Park Service requirements, policy and regulations. Once completed the NEPA analysis including the effects, if any, on cultural resources will be available for public review."

You can send any comments you'd like the parks to consider to: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, Planning and Compliance Office, 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, California 93271. Or you can email them to


If it's supposed to be "peaceful" then it's probably too late. It's right off the road and there are numerous businesses operating there. If you want something that really ruins the experience for me, try a group of Harley riders going down the road or getting off in a parking lot.

There are already pay phones in the area, but most people are more familiar with their cell phones. Again - I had someone to meet at Grant Grove once, and not having cell phone service made it difficult if something were to go wrong.

What a beautiful place there. I have never been in Kings Canyon but I hope that one day I will go there. I think that this place should be peaceful and any mobile phones or other things should not disturb the people there. People go there to relax from their work so I think that it is a bad idea. But it is only my opinion. Thanks a lot for the interesting post and i will be waiting for other great ones from you.


Greg Peterson

Cell towers in parks are "the camel's nose under the tent"?

It's absolutely asinine to assert that THIS, a cell phone tower, will be the catalyst for a slippery slope to national park ruin.

Anonymous [edited] fails to realize that cell phone towers are the bottom, not the top, of the slippery slope.

Don't blame cell phones; blame roads, cars, buildings, sewage plants, garbage dumps, flush toilets, pay phones, parking lots, construction equipment, chainsaws, and every other piece of technology that impaired the parks to their current state.

A metal tower (next to a hideous, mass produced, soulless lookout tower) will not spell the parks' doom.

If you think Grant Grove is pristine, you've drunk too much of the special Kool-Aid. There is a sewage pipe buried amidst the Grant Tree's roots for Pete's sake.


Excerpt from letter to the NPS re: SEKI cell phone tower:

I urge the National Park Service to deny the request for a new cell phone tower in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The Park Service is charged with maintaing the character of the national parks. That includes the both the tangible and intangible resources that make a park such as Sequoia and Kings Canyon a unique place. I understand the need to provide reasonable accommodations and visitor protection, but that does not require universal cell phone/internet access throughout the park. The park has contributed to the joy and wonder of countless visitors during its existence. Those who are privileged to walk among the towering trees and drink in the small sounds of the forests should not have their experience interrupted by the harsh ringing or obnoxious mechanical musak of a cell phone. Allow there to still be places where visitors may temporarily escape the electronic immediate ties to a mechanized world.

Ray Bane

That is, the lookout is NOT ugly! Bottom line is this is the camel's nose under the tent. What happens when Frank (or another wired seasonal) gets a job in Lake Clark, Wrangle, Glacier, (fill in your favorite remote park) and wants to call his girl friend or his mommy?

The is not ugly and Frank can get a job at Starbuks if he wants to be connected. BTW- I lived there and it was not a problem for me.

Mike, please comment on the art and science of creating cell phone base stations that blend into their surroundings. I mean, if the decision is made to locate a cell phone site in a particular place, can it be made darn near invisible? I believe that the cell phone industry would be much better served by a policy of creating sites that aren't so darn ugly.

I work in the wireless industry as a "site acquisition agent" (finding places to put antennas - tall buildings, water tanks, electric transmission lines, existing towers, etc.) and have mixed feelings. The industry, as far as I've seen over the last 10 yrs I've been in it, makes building a new tower the last option due to the cost and negative PR. I prefer to have "wild" places be just that. At the same time, the safety concerns sound valid. Tough call. I hope I get to this park soon though, it looks gorgeous.....

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