By Tim Rowland
Two back-to-back cellular towers disguised as evergreens were approved by the Adirondack Park Agency at its February meeting, a move that will bring better coverage to the hamlet and camps of Raquette Lake as well as to a notorious dead zone in the Route 28 corridor.
The tower presentation morphed into an at-times amusing discussion over how best to fool the human eye into thinking that a 90-foot utility pole is really and truly a white pine. It also shows how far monopole masquerading techniques have come from the days that cellphone towers were a hill that viewshed conservationists were willing to die on.
Today the announcement of a new tower is less controversial. The Raquette Lake towers will be sited next to one another, one outfitted with T Mobile hardware, the other AT&T. The hamlet currently gets some service from an AT&T tower on Blue Mountain, but the new tower will broaden and strengthen signals, according to coverage maps.
Earlier this winter the agency approved a pine-like tower in Elizabethtown.
APA analyst Virginia Yamrick told the board that two towers were deemed by the staff to be better than one, because a single pole would have to be slightly higher to accommodate both carriers, and would stand out more.
By contrast, two slightly unnatural evergreens more or less trick the eye into thinking that this must be what trees look like, giving the viewer a greater tendency to skim over the scene instead of snagging on one out-of-place feature. In leaving no needle unturned in the name of obscurity, the two “trees” will have differing shapes and branch patterns and colors, because, visually speaking, two perfectly identical white pines would raise ocular suspicions of their own.
It particularly matters in this case, Yamrick said, because the towers will be visible from Brown Tract Inlet, a picturesque, serpentine flow that’s part of the 90 Miler Adirondack Canoe Classic.
To get an idea of how the towers will look, APA staff floats balloons to the tower height on the space where they will be located. Simulations of the pines give an idea of what the scene will look like once the job is done.
From most of Raquette Lake the towers will not be visible at all. From Brown Tract Inlet, they will remain below the ridgeline, another trick to concealing their presence.
The APA members were divided on the question of whether two trees were indeed better than one. The consensus seemed to be in favor of just one, but after a good hard squint at the mockups they concluded there wasn’t enough difference to redo the plans.