Reflecting on how visitors consume information these days, Superintendent Cam Sholly says Yellowstone connectivity upgrades are inevitable — and he also wants to keep them as unobtrusive as possible.
In an ideal world, visitors would turn off their cellphones during their Yellowstone National Park visits, preferring to commune with nature and patiently await an Old Faithful eruption or two. And, indeed, many visitors do indeed adopt this approach to a Yellowstone visit.
But for others, being connected is part of everyday life. Whether it’s a family that wants to communicate with cellphones or the business professional who wants to hit the WiFi to stay connected with the office, it’s impossible to deny the inevitable. And that means acknowledging the future expansion of Yellowstone connectivity in the form of expanded WiFi and cell service.
Discuss Yellowstone connectivity and you’ll get a variety of responses. Some opposite it because of the impact it makes on the environment: no one wants to see a cell tower, even if it’s painted green to blend into the landscape. But others say there are legitimate safety reasons to embrace Yellowstone connectivity.
Pleasing all sides–or at least acknowledging their concerns, anyway–is what a Yellowstone superintendent does. In remarks at the Cody Chamber of Commerce’s annual National Parks Day Luncheon, Sholly laid out a vision of improved Yellowstone connectivity that would improve snd widen cell and WiFi within the Park’s developed area without visitors noticing. From the Powell Tribune:
Sholly said it’s imperative that plans include improvements for connectivity. That will become increasingly important in the coming decades, he said, not only for visitors who want to share their discoveries on social media, but to help recruit employees who are bringing their families to live in parks. However, he said those upgrades won’t come at the expense of the landscape.
“We’re never going to put cell towers in areas — at least while I’m the superintendent — that hurt or damage the scenic integrity of [Yellowstone],” Sholly said. “That will not happen.”
He’s counting on technological improvements to make placement a non-issue.
“[Designs] have evolved substantially; they’re putting cell towers in flag poles and chimneys,” Sholly said. “And I think you’re going to see technology continue to advance to where they are almost invisible to the human eye.”
His remarks were echoed by Grand Teton National Park Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail:
“We need to be open to what other people’s experiences are,” Noojibail said. “Hiking or going into the backcountry is one thing, but people want to be doing their own things — finding their own park.”
Last year the Park beefed up cell service at the Mount Washburn Fire Lookout — a move that drew opposition from several quarters, including the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). We’d expect additional objections if future proposals on Yellowstone connectivity are released.
RELATED STORIES: Improved Yellowstone Cell Service On the Way, Despite Objections; Public Comment Sought on Mount Washburn Antenna Project; Additional Comment Sought on Fire Lookout Project; PEER Criticizes Yellowstone Over Cellphone Coverage