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

Listen

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

Related Stories:

File photo. Glacier Peak volcano Washington's central Cascades. CREDIT: Walter Siegmund/Wikimedia/Creative Commons BY-SA 3.

Scientists Are Getting New Tools To Monitor The Northwest’s Volcanoes

Eighteen volcanoes are classified as “very high threat” in the United States; eight of them are located in the Pacific Northwest. And right now only Mount St. Helens is considered well-monitored. The National Volcanic Early Warning and Monitoring Systems Act, passed in February, sets out to change that. Continue Reading Scientists Are Getting New Tools To Monitor The Northwest’s Volcanoes

Read More »
Deep snow surrounds the closed Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park in this webcam view Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019. CREDIT: NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Following Crater Lake, Mount Rainier National Park Shutters Entrances Due To Government Shutdown

When the government shutdown began on December 22, National Park Service higher-ups aspired to maintain access to Western parks—to the extent it was possible with a skeleton staff. But that quickly became untenable at Crater Lake National Park due to lack of snow plowing and sewer maintenance. Continue Reading Following Crater Lake, Mount Rainier National Park Shutters Entrances Due To Government Shutdown

Read More »