Park Service approves plan for 100-foot cell tower near Lake Hotel in Yellowstone

A beachcomber walks along the shore of Yellowstone Lake in view of Lake Hotel as the evening light fades in Yellowstone National Park. (Ruffin Prevost/Yellowstone Gate) A beachcomber walks along the shore of Yellowstone Lake in view of Lake Hotel as the evening light fades in Yellowstone National Park. (Ruffin Prevost/Yellowstone Gate)

From Staff Reports

The National Park Service has given final approval for a plan by Verizon Wireless to build a new 100-foot cell tower to serve the Fishing Bridge and Lake Village developed areas in Yellowstone National Park.

A permit clearing the way for construction of the new cell tower was recently approved by John Wessels, the Director of the Intermountain Region of the National Park Service, according to a statement released Tuesday by the National Park Service.

The Lake/Fishing Bridge area is the only location in the park where construction of a new cell tower was permitted under the park’s Wireless Communications Services Plan Environmental Assessment. The proposal for a new tower drew criticism last summer from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

A map from Verizon Wireless shows signal coverage from a cell phone tower planned for the area around Lake Hotel in Yellowstone National Park. (click to enlarge) A map from Verizon Wireless shows signal coverage from a cell phone tower planned for the area around Lake Hotel in Yellowstone National Park. (click to enlarge)

The group objected to the tower, saying the Park Service was not following its own policies before moving forward with the project. In a July statement, the group called the proposed tower a “100-foot monstrosity” that would mean “the incessant chirp of ringtones will be heard even in the remotest parts of Yellowstone.”

Park managers say that cell phone service is generally available in most developed areas within the park, including Mammoth, Old Faithful, Canyon, Tower, Roosevelt, and Grant. Current coverage around Lake is spotty, and does not include the large Bridge Bay campground and marina area.

The new cellular site will be located next to a buried water tank on a 100-foot rise above the Lake administrative area and 700 feet below the top of the Elephant Back Ridge. The site already has access via an existing service road and is near existing electric and phone lines.

Park managers say cell antennas will be configured to minimize spillover coverage into Yellowstone’s backcountry.

Planning documents state that the structure would be a 100-foot tall, gray, steel lattice tower. A categorical exclusion for the project dated Oct. 13 states that “the tower and antenna mounts will be treated or painted so that they are non-reflective, and blend with background colors.”

Also included in the project is a proposed 12-by-26-foot, single-story equipment building, a propane generator, a 6-foot tall chain link fence enclosure, underground electrical power lines, and approximately 0.45 mile of communications circuit conduit buried under or directly adjacent to the existing service road and to the nearest telephone service utility pedestal in the housing area.

A crane and weather balloons were used to simulate the height of the proposed tower to ensure that it would not be visible from the nearby Lake Hotel, Fishing Bridge and Lake Lodge historic districts. The site was also selected to minimize the cell signal’s reach into the park’s backcountry.

According to planning documents, the tower will be visible from a portion of the Grand Loop Road through the Lake area, but only through a break in the trees. It would not be visible from the nearby Lake Hotel, Fishing Bridge, Lake Lodge historic districts, and area hiking trails.

The tower will extend approximately 30 feet above the surrounding tree canopy, according to planning documents, a necessity to allow other carriers to provide future service in the area without erecting additional towers.

Contact Yellowstone Gate at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].

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