There might be good news coming for those who enjoy hiking the route to Camp Muir at Mount Rainier National Park.
Two providers of cell phone service – Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile – have applied for permission to install wireless communications hubs in the park’s Paradise area to improve their customers’ phone connections there.
In proposals that park officials are willing to consider, there wouldn’t be any cell phone towers, although a tower was once suggested. Instead, the right-of-way permit applications the companies have filed with the National Park Service call for putting telecommunications equipment in the attic of the Jackson Visitor Center. Accompanying antennas would be mounted on the interior of the east and west ends of the building, behind fiberglass panels that would match the structure’s wood siding, according to the companies.
Federal legislation (the Telecommunications Act of 1996) requires the Park Service to consider all proposals that it receives for telecommunications installations in national parks. As part of the decisionmaking process involving the Verizon and T-Mobile applications, Mount Rainier National Park officials are asking for the public’s thoughts on the proposals. Comments can be made by Dec. 12 – the end of a 14-day public-comment period – at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/ParadiseCellular or to park superintendent Randy King at Mount Rainier National Park, 55210 238th Ave E., Ashford, WA 98304.
If you’ve been in Paradise area, you know cell phone coverage is very sparse. And Paradise Inn even has pay phones, so you could make the calls. This might be a good thing to unplug and feel connected to the nature and enjoy the mountain, but what if something happened while you’re on a hike? Mount Rainier is well-known by its unstable weather, and even in summer you could be caught in a snow storm or even a blizzard.
Officials have already rejected three options presented by the wireless providers for locating antennas at Paradise. One was to build a tower, ranging in height from 75 to 130 feet, in the lower parking lot. The others were to put antennas in a cupola on the roof of the visitor center or on interior and exterior walls of the nearby guide house.
Verizon’s plan for Paradise is tied to a cell tower the company built in the Ashford area three miles west of the park’s Nisqually entrance but hasn’t yet activated.
Mount Rainier National Park invites you to comment on the proposal using the online National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) by clicking the “Comment Now” on its website .
You can still leave the comments by December 12th, 2016.
A final decision could come next year, after a report on any environmental impacts of the proposed project. The report is scheduled to be released in January, followed by a second public-comment period.