How do you solve a problem like a 90-metre cell tower?
Residents in the area of Glamorgan Road and Minnicock Lake Road have expressed outrage, as highlighted in today’s front page story, over plans telecommunications giant Rogers has to construct a large cell tower in an undisturbed setting about 10 minutes south of Haliburton village.
Citing environmental concerns, most notably that the tower could destroy the habitat of nearby wildlife, I think there’s another issue bubbling in the background.
The residents don’t want a huge, lighted structure thrown up in their backyard.
And I don’t blame them.
A big part of why people move to Haliburton County, or stay after growing up here, is the picture-perfect natural setting all around them.
This is a beautiful part of the province, and we should strive to maintain everything that makes it so.
But how do we balance that with bringing some of our most rural areas into the 21st century? Cell reception and internet connectivity, particularly in places outside of our downtown hubs, is, at best, choppy.
Given the growth we’ve seen over the past five years, particularly since the onset of the pandemic, Haliburton County is no longer just a tourist, holiday destination for people escaping the city. It’s become a home for working professionals.
There is a demand for improved service. This is where Rogers, backed by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network’s cell gap project, is stepping in.
By 2025, the company plans to build between 30 and 40 new cell towers, and improve more than 20 existing ones. These things are coming, whether we like it or not. But maybe there’s an opportunity for compromise, where we can achieve improved cell service without sacrificing our natural habitats or polluting our night skies.
One of the most common concerns I hear is a belief that the Highlands, whether intentionally or not, is being set up to ‘become the next Muskoka’.
In this instance, I suggest that’s something we should embrace.
Since 2012, several companies, most notably Bell, have tried to appease the concerns of Muskoka residents worried that cell tower expansion would ruin their natural settings. So, Bell came up with the idea to disguise these towers as trees.
They’re smaller than the huge, 90-metre tower that has been proposed for Glamorgan Road, and, most importantly, they don’t require any bright, shining lights as a warning to nearby aircraft.
Rogers has gotten into the game recently too.
In 2018, the company constructed a treelike cell tower in Sudbury. In an article published by CBC, nearby residents were said to have been delighted that Rogers sought to conceal the tower and make it fit in more with its natural surroundings.
We’re wondering why the same thing can’t happen here. Dysart et al Ward 2 Coun. Larry Clarke asked as much at a recent public consultation meeting between Rogers officials and area residents, but, allegedly, was informed that wasn’t an option, as a larger structure is required to provide optimal service. But what if they installed several smaller structures instead?
Surely that would do the same job, and it would likely placate the upset locals.
Would it cost more?
Almost definitely yes. But if it maintains the environment, natural habitats and starry night skies, I suggest it would be money well spent.