The National Park Service on Wednesday approved Glacier National Park’s telecommunications plan to provide cellular and internet coverage in select areas of the park.
In an effort to keep pace with changing communication needs and advances in technology, the plan will address deficiencies in the park service’s data-based radio, telephone, computer and telecommunications systems that support operations. of the park by switching to new technologies and/or by eliminating unnecessary telecommunications infrastructures. as needed, park officials said in a news release.
“A lot of that is installing or replacing equipment that is already there. For the most part, the public won’t notice any of these improvements,” park spokeswoman Gina Gerzman said. “There are repeaters that we could eventually put in the park that are still under consideration. If we can achieve what we want by placing repeaters outside the park, we’ll look at those options first.
Approved plan includes phone system upgrades, improved internet speed and access, better electronic file and information sharing, remote access to digital video security systems, more reliable reporting for service alarms facilities, improved radio communications in areas where radio coverage is poor, and backup radio. communications as well as possible radio relay sites in the park’s recommended wilderness, including Elk Mountain and Looking Glass Hill.
Some of the changes to infrastructure and equipment as a result of Park Service telecommunications upgrades include:
the installation or replacement of telecommunications infrastructure and equipment, such as radio antennas and microwave dishes;
replacing three equipment poles (similar in size and appearance to a telephone pole) with 40-foot lattice-frame towers and raising the height of one tower from 40 feet to 80 feet (approximately 6 feet wide at the base);
the installation of a radio repeater at the loop on the GTSR, including a mast of approximately 30 feet, an antenna and solar panels on the roof of the existing comfort station;
install temporary radio repeaters for use during projects or short-term non-emergency situations;
possibly install permanent radio repeaters (consisting of an approximately 5 x 4 x 5 foot equipment shelter, 20 foot mast and solar panels) on Elk Mountain and other wilderness sites recommended if NPS radio communications are not sufficiently improved by other actions. Other recommended wilderness areas previously identified for possible permanent repeaters include the Belly River, Nyack, or Two Medicine areas, or on Mount Brown;
upgrading an existing temporary repeater at Looking Glass Hill, also in a recommended wilderness area, until the repeater can be moved to a location outside the park. Recent developments indicate that the Looking Glass Hill repeater can be moved outside of the park without the need for an upgrade first.
The plan includes a commercial cellular and/or internet access strategy for the public and the National Park Service, but only in locations that are already developed, such as Many Glacier, Rising Sun, Two Medicine, and Lake McDonald Lodge.
“A lot of people want to know how this will improve my cell service if I visit Glacier National Park. The only place you might see a difference will be around developed areas that already have service,” Kerzman said. “You will not get cell service on the Going-to-the-Sun route or when you are in the backcountry wilderness. This will only provide improved technology for communications in already improved areas.
The plan establishes conditions and parameters relating to the location, size, quantity and type of commercial telecommunications infrastructure and equipment. Only commercial infrastructure with minimal visibility and impacts to park resources will be permitted, such as micro-cell sites or wireless access points, with only towers under 80 feet in height permitted. Highly visible infrastructure will not be allowed under the plan, including large-scale towers. The plan will not allow commercial telecommunications infrastructure to be installed in the recommended wilderness or backcountry area of the park and service should be confined to developed areas as much as possible.
“You’re not going to suddenly see large-scale towers rising inside the park. The plan doesn’t allow for that. Commercial vendors still have to submit a proposal, and then a site-specific review will have to be done,” Kerzman said, “As much as possible, we want the footprint of commercial communications services to be confined to the developed areas of the park. Much of this is uncontrollable and there will be spillovers along the lake.” and road, but the service provider will need to limit this as much as possible.We try to keep the desert wild.
For more detailed information on the plan’s actions, the environmental assessment of the overall telecommunications plan and the finding of no significant impact is available on the NPS Planning, Environment & Public Comment (PEPC) website.