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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


Bad idea. If I'm out camping or hiking in the woods, I'm trying to get away from that sort of thing. And I don't want my peaceful time away interrupted by the annoying sound of a cell phone ringing or someone yammering away on the phone.

Having lived in Grant Grove, I say build the tower already. Park employees live in 200 square foot cabins without telephones or access to the outside world. While tourists might be able to disconnect as a luxury, seasonal park residents are expected to go without Internet access and personal phone communication for 3 to 6 months. Seasonal park employees have to wait in line for hours for a solitary phone booth, walk a half mile to the VC, or, if they do have cellphones, drive a half an hour to get a signal. This is not a safe situation, especially in an area where black bears have broken into employee housing.

Supervisors at Grant Grove have told me that they're having difficulty attracting highly qualified younger candidates because of the lack of Internet and cell phone coverage.

Additionally, the article doesn't mention the Wilsonia Historic District, a private neighborhood of historic cabins just behind the seasonal housing area. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 and includes 139 contributing structures. This small community would also benefit from the tower located on Park Ridge, especially in emergency situations.

And about that tower. I'm not sure 80 feet dwarfs 40 feet. Certainly doubles. But the tower would not be visible from any of the local sequoia groves or from most of the heavily forested area. A sequoia would triple (not sure if that counts as dwarfing, either) the height of the proposed tower.

And while it will be unpleasant to see people on their phones around the Grant Tree, it's already unpleasant enough with a huge parking lot, screaming kids, people crossing fences to climb trees, and the general cacophony a July day brings. If one really wants to get away from it all, he or she can turn of the phone and explore one of the dozens of primitive groves within a hour drive of the Grant Tree.

Safety issue? LMAO!
Just when did "they" decide that Our National Parks were not safe?

"We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum: in wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men." Aldo Leopold

I totally see Frank_C's point about seasonals. I've worked as a seasonal several times, and it's a terrible feeling when you're cut off without landline, cell, or Internet access. It's easy to become lonely and frustrated.

I'm not in favor of building oodles of cell towers, but we need to find a way to treat seasonals better. It's too easy for management to take them for granted.

Safety issue? LMAO!

Absolutely it's a safety issue, Random Walker.

There have been a few seasonals and volunteers at Grant Grove who are in their 60s and 70s. Imagine being in that situation and having some kind of health emergency, say a heart attack or a fall that results in a broken hip. Now imagine you're in a tiny cabin without a phone. No phone, no ambulance.

Bears are a safety issue, too. Imagine a bear tried to break into your cabin when you're in it. (This happened at Grant Grove, but fortunately when the resident was outside at a nearby campfire.) No phone, no help from law enforcement or wildlife biologists.

This area is also prone to fires. Now imagine that you live in Wilsonia and your chimney starts a wildfire. No phone, no fire fighters.

Grant Grove and Wilsonia are not wilderness. Not even close. The cell phone tower will go with many other towers in an already developed area.

So go ahead. Keep laughin' yer ass off. Many do not consider it humorous to be without help during an emergency.

Thank you, Frank C, for providing some essential background to this story. If Grant Grove is a telecommunications center, "a small community" and a visitor node possessing a "huge parking lot," a new cell tower and impacts from cell phone usage will be minor issues for park management. Been there and done that in similar situations at another jewel in the crown.

Keep in mind that new broadband and wireless technologies will render cell towers obsolete within five to ten years while SEKI will be there in perpetuity. Tower maintenance is a huge expense for the industry; they're eager to eliminate it. When that day arrives, the only delay will come from the NPS's desire and ability to buy the new technology. Seen that, too.

Verizon does not give a wit about your safety.
I do not have to imagine as I happen to live in a neighborhood where bears (and other critters) are very present.
If you fear for your safety, then by all means never ever venture outside of your cell phones range.
Make sure the contract stipulates that the corporation dismantle towers no longer in use, I found this out the hard way..

I'm very familiar with the Grant Grove area, having hiked every front-country trail and driven all the forest service roads within 15 miles. I'm familiar with the Park Ridge communications site, which sits on the boundary of the park having been up there many times. It sits almost right on the park boundary. There are several large clear-cut logged areas just east of it. Not only is the community of Wilsonia within range of the tower, but the large Hume Lake recreation area is also, as well as the Big Meadows area across a canyon to the east- which is a major recreational area with summer cabins to the south outside the park. If there was not already a big, ugly metal fire lookout tower at the site as well as existing antenaes I would be against this new tower. But the damage is done and there is a need. What I would like to see is a better effort at concentarting these towers in one small area, as opposed to the current habit of having one compaies tower on one hill and another's on the next. When you start hiking around the front country of King's Canyon and Sequoia National Parks you quickly discover there are antenaes all over the place. Many of them have been there for years. To see the location of the existing fire tower with Google Earth go to 36°43'29.03"N , 118°56'35.26"W . Then scan to the right past the park boundary to see the areas with small trees recovering from clear cut logging operations.

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