Cell phone towers have sprouted up in national parks across the country because the National Park Service lacks any coherent policy and instead lets telecommunications companies decide where and how many towers will be constructed. As a result, the incessant chirp of the cell phone can be heard in the wild backcountry as well as at iconic places like Old Faithful.
To date, only four national park units (out of 401) have adopted a plan for cell towers or wireless communication: Golden Gate National Recreation Area (NRA), Rock Creek Park, Lake Mead NRA, and Yellowstone National Park. Even these plans do little to protect solitude, soundscape and other essential park values.
Nonetheless, the Park Service is moving ahead with an industry-sponsored initiative which would change the way many visitors experience national parks. This plan would significantly expand cellular and internet “connectivity” inside parks, at not just visitor centers but along most roads and at major sites such as trailheads. The plan would also cede control and placement of facilities, as well as interpretive content about the park, to private concessionaires.
This stealth scheme to wire our national park system has advanced without public involvement. It will mean more ugly cell towers marring park vistas and “spill-over” coverage in wilderness and backcountry. It is also a giant step to further “Disney-fy” our parks, replacing rangers with corporate icons as your guides.
Parks should remain unplugged from the modern world. Experiencing the wonders of nature should not require a smartphone. Please tell the Park Service to reject this plan and to protect the solitude, serenity and scenic values of national parks.