Verizon Wireless has proposed a new cell phone tower for Bryce Canyon National Park, and officials want to know what the public thinks.
Local Utah companies South Central Utah Telephone Association and Garkane Energy Cooperative also want to get in on the development, and have added internet and electrical infrastructure to the proposal. It’s a continuation of a project started by Verizon Wireless and South Central Communications in the fall of 2015.
Park officials have said they are required by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 — a law designed to enable competition within communications markets — to consider the proposal.
Superintendent Linda Mazzu said the environmental assessment will highlight the project’s pros and cons.
“We look at what kind of coverage the new cell tower will provide, and we look at the environmental impact of the actual construction,” she said.
If the tower is constructed, the park would see additional coverage in what Mazzu described as its “developed areas” like the visitor center, Bryce Canyon Lodge and along the shuttle bus route.
Mazzu said that increasing connectivity can be a double-edged sword when it comes to fulfilling the park’s mission of conserving and protecting its resources for current and future generations.
On one hand, it can help rangers respond to visitor questions with the most up-to-date answers and enable future tools like an app to show shuttle bus information in real-time.
But it can also make it harder to disconnect and could increase the wear and tear on Instagram-friendly features.
That’s why it’s critical for the public to weigh in, Mazzu said. “I just want to make sure that people know that we want to hear from them.”
The public comment period on the project’s environmental assessment is open through November 25th.
David Fuchs is a Report for America corps member who reports from KUER's Southwest Bureau in St. George.