Written by David Castellon
Receiving cellular phone calls should become easier at Sequoia National Park — at least in some parts.
That’s because Verizon Wireless has received approval from the National Park Service for its plan to build the first cellular tower in the park, near Wuksachi Village, which includes a lodge, restaurant and other small businesses.
Although it’s officially described as a “a wireless telecommunications facility,” Verizon’s plan calls for a cell tower which will be disguised to look like a pine tree — complete with fake branches and leaves — so it blends in with the forest, at least when seen from a distance, said Ginger Bradshaw, an environmental protection specialist for the Park Service.
She couldn’t immediately say within what range the tower may provide cell service, though expectations are that visitors in the lodge area and on parts of Generals Highway and Wuksachi Way would get service.
With no cell towers currently in the park, cell signals are available in very few places there.
“The NPS held several meetings and field trips with Verizon starting in 2015 to identify potential tower locations and evaluate the feasibility of the facility installation. Following these meetings, Verizon Wireless submitted an application to Sequoia National Park on March 2, 2017 to install a wireless telecommunications facility near Wuksachi Village,” states a Park Service press release.
“Cellular coverage in Sequoia National Park is very limited. The wireless telecommunications facility would provide year-round cellular coverage in the vicinity of Wuksachi Village and surrounding areas,” and public comment on the proposal cited health and safety benefits of offering cell service in the park, along with enhancing the visitor experience, which could include making it easier to communicate park conditions to visitors, including real-time information on parking, bad weather and hazards.
“Cellular service will also assist the park in providing educational and interpretive materials to park visitors — information about events and activities maps.”
Expectations are for construction of the cell tower to begin next year, but it wasn’t immediately clear when it would be done and up and running.