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Camouflage for cell-phone towers

Brief by Central Staff

Communications – January 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

When we started this magazine nearly seven years ago, Central Colorado was pretty much a “cell-free zone.” Now people call their friends from atop 14ers.

Cellular telephones have a short range — there has to be an antenna nearby. In towns, the fixed antennæ are often hidden inside church steeples and the like, but out in the country, there may be no place to hide it.

That was the situation in Park County, where the Board of Adjustment denied an application for a cell-phone antenna tower.

Originally it was supposed to be 90 feet high, and the company would build a silo around the tower so that it would better fit in a rural landscape.

When it was pointed out that silos are part of dairy country, but not really part of the agricultural landscape of a grazing territory like South Park, the cell-phone company offered to scale it back to 65 feet and make it look like a windmill.

But that wasn’t enough. In denying the application, the board said the disguised antenna tower would still interfere with “key vistas” in an open-space acquisition area, and it was incompatible with the character of the surrounding area.

Fair enough. But if you can’t use a silo, what could you use to disguise cell-phone towers?

A few things came to mind. Mine headframes, constructed from rugged and weathered timbers with rusted hardware, would fit in almost anywhere in Central Colorado.

So would brick smokestacks that look as though they were once used by smelters — the new ones wouldn’t have to be as tall as Salida’s 360-footers.

Or maybe something that looks like an abandoned drive-in movie screen; there used to be one where the Salida Wal-Mart now operates, and it seemed to fit in.

We’re not sure how tall a cell-phone antenna tower has to be, but maybe one would fit in a rebuilt railroad water tank sitting out in some field — and think how it would drive visiting railroad buffs crazy trying to figure out what spur line might possibly have run there.

And in the San Luis Valley, why not build the towers to look like crashed UFOs? Since the tourists will be coming anyway to sample a new national park, such towers would provide more attractions to see, thus inspiring tourists to stay longer and spend more money.