Paradise Lost? Cell Service Coming To Mount Rainier, Despite Pleas To Protect Solitude

Mount Rainier National Park could soon have cellphone access at Paradise and on nearby hikes. CREDIT: EILIS O'NEILL
Mount Rainier National Park could soon have cell access at Paradise. CREDIT: EILIS O'NEILL

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There won’t be any cellphone towers — but there could soon be cell signals at the most popular place at Mount Rainier. The National Park Service has decided limited range cell service can be installed at Paradise.

The Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise will soon house limited-range antenna in its attic — hidden from view.

The National Park Service said Tuesday it has authorized Verizon and T-Mobile to provide coverage. Eventually AT&T may also provide cell service.

Tracy Swartout, a spokeswoman for the park, said cell service at Paradise will improve visitor and employee safety. She said it could help with search and rescue efforts. (The park has about 50 each year; half starting in the Paradise area.)

Swartout said cell service could also prevent unneeded searches.

“For example, when family members get separated from one another — it results in a search when people were just back at the car. Or they were just delayed getting back to their car. They weren’t actually missing,” Swartout said.

She said there isn’t a timeline for when coverage will be available.

“To the largest extent possible, we’re attempting to have that signal just be focused in the developed area,” Swartout said — places where people are staying in hotels, park staff live or visitors are trying to connect with one another.

Officials said coverage will still leave most backcountry hikers and climbers without cell reception.

The proposal generated about 900 comments — many expressed concerns that cell service would bring unneeded chatter and would change the character of the park’s wilderness.

On an earlier visit to Mount Rainier, Danny Adams, a teenager from Tacoma, said he didn’t want cell service in the area. “It kind of takes away from the experience of not having cell service up here,” he said.

Copyright 2018 Earthfix

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