NPS considering improvements to telecommunications at Grand Canyon

PHOENIX – The National Park Service wants to enhance telecommunications services within developed areas of Grand Canyon National Park, but it has to make sure the improvements don’t detract from the natural experience that draws millions of visitors each year.

Public comment now is being sought on the proposal, which is based on operational needs for more bandwidth for the National Park Service and visitor complaints about limited cellphone and data services.

If the expansion is approved, the NPS would erect as many as five telecommunications towers and install cellular nodes and fiber optic cables in developed portions of the North and South rims. It includes the removal or relocation of existing telecommunications infrastructure.

Elly Boerke, environmental protection specialist with NPS, said any work would have to balance modern needs with the beauty of a World Heritage site.

“We know we have a pretty valuable scenic resource here at Grand Canyon,” Boerke said. “That is the main reason why people are here. And so we are trying to be really sensitive to that as we develop the proposed action and develop the environmental assessment.”

Interested parties can participate in the public scoping open house from 4 to 6 p.m. July 30 at the Shrine of the Ages Auditorium in Grand Canyon Village. A virtual open house webinar is scheduled for noon to 1 p.m. Aug. 6.

Public comments on the proposal will be accepted until Aug. 11. After that, an environmental impact assessment will be conducted in conjunction with state officials, and there will be additional opportunities for public input.

This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a new multimedia collaboration between Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal.