“Phone Mast” Menace Coming to UK Parks?
What a difference an ocean makes. In the United States, the National Park Service is being sued by a spectrum of conservation groups for agreeing to expand power line passage over the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in the Delaware Water Gap.
In England, the English National Park Authorities Association, “representing the government-funded bodies stewarding the parks,” has expressed its alarm at a plan to “relax planning constraints on phone masts (cell towers) and overhead cables being erected across Britain's most protected countryside,” The Guardian said yesterday in the UK.
The plan to prioritize expansion of telecommunications infrastructure comes in legislation introduced and soon to be debated in Parliament that The Guardian says, “has been savaged as an assault on the laws that first gave national parks and beauty spots their protected status under Clement Atlee's Labour government in 1949. ... It is feared that the Lake District landscapes that inspired William Wordsworth will be particularly under threat.”
The legislation sets about “removing the duty of the secretary of state to take into account the beauty of an area” when infrastructure expansion takes place, the paper’s Web site says.
The Guardian article says the English National Park Authorities Association document “warns ministers of an outcry once the change becomes public. It adds: ‘We have seen no evidence that national park purposes have unduly hampered broadband or mobile communications delivery or justification for such a change to well-established legislation, and reject the inference that national park status has been a barrier to the roll-out of mobile/broadband technologies.’
The organization maintains that, "Parliament has established national parks with a clear purpose ... and it is not appropriate to pick and choose when such protection should be afforded, and when not.”
The possible expansion of “masts and cables” comes after the Friends of the Lake District recently reached a deal with electric utilities to actually remove 12 miles of overhead powerlines. Opponents say the newly proposed rule relaxation will “undo” that work. Opponent groups with evocative names such as “Mast Sanity” think that changing the strict regs regarding the protection of scenery in national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will create a “free for all” in which interests arrayed at unfettered and fast expansion into new and unexploited rural markets will blight “England's green and pleasant land.”
The English seem to be a far more likely than Americans to embrace “scenic beauty” as a value worthy of actual investment in camouflaging cell towers or burying underground cables in or near national parks. In the case of the Delaware Water Gap, the cross-cultural comparison invites one to wonder whether it’s more important to vigorously fight expansion of power lines and their scenic impact once they’ve started—or argue forcibly to forbid their introduction in the first place.
No doubt opponents of the plan to expand power lines at Delaware Water Gap are wishing English park proponents well in the effort to keep the Lakes District landscape one that Wordsworth would recognize.
Earthquake Shuts off the Spa in Canada’s Haida Gwaii
This weekend, the biggest earthquake to hit British Columbia since the 1940s has shut off and dried up four famous hot spring pools in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, says an article in Saskatchewan’s Leader-Post.
Parks Canada officials do not yet know whether the changes caused by the 7.7-magnitude earthquake are permanent or temporary.
The paper said, “According to Brent Ward, an earth sciences professor at Simon Fraser University, the earthquake could have caused one of a number of subterranean changes that would make the hot springs go dry. These include changing the groundwater level, completely closing of the cracks the water used to reach the surface, or causing a sudden surge in water that depleted the underground reservoir for a short time. It's also possible the hot water was diverted elsewhere.”
The park was uncertain whether the initial quake or an aftershock had sparked the springs’ demise, but “Ernie Gladstone, the field superintendent at Gwaii Haanas, said on Thursday that one aftershock struck only a kilometre from the hot springs.”
The hot springs, popular with tour groups to the watery park, are located on an island where steam from the springs can be seen rising into the air as visitors approach by boat. Parks Canada officials had the decidedly disturbing experience of investigating reports that the spring had vanished only to see no steam as they approached and to find the pools empty and the normally hot surrounding ground cold to the touch.
The paper quoted Gladstone as saying, "It's not the primary reason for visiting the area, but it's certainly a place where kayakers and boaters and locals from Haida Gwaii and commercial fishermen would stop by.... It's a very special place for local people."
News articles about the incident were picked up across Canada reporting that there seemed to be no other significant damage reported from the quake. “‘The 26 totem poles that stand in the village of Nan Sdins in the Sgang Gwaay world heritage site were unharmed,’ Gladstone said.”