Cellphone service could be coming to the Golden Ears Provincial Park, making life easier for rescuers and campers.
Rogers Communications, after consultation with B.C. Parks, wants to put up a cell tower next to the Alouette campground in the park.
Rick Laing, with Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue, is happy to see the application at council.
The proposal was sent on from its committee meeting last week to its regular council on Tuesday night.
Currently, there is no cell service in the park, although sometimes on a trail a hiker may catch a stray signal.
The new tower, if approved by council and Industry Canada, would provide coverage for the park’s picnic areas, boat launch and all campsites.
Laing said the public expects to be able to dial 911 during an emergency and be able to connect with emergency services, and that’s needed in Golden Ears given the number of people who now crowd into the park every summer.
Until now, rescue crews could only communicate between themselves using their two-way radios and via satellite phone.
Currently, rescue teams, during an operation, can’t call in a helicopter or other teams to the park.
“We have to drive down the park road until we get a cell signal and make the calls then,” Laing said.
With at least one tower in the park, lost hikers would be able to call if they get into trouble.
That could see an increase in rescue calls, however.
“You’ve got to take the good with the bad,” Laing added.
According to a staff report, the proposal has been through the city’s Telecommunications Antenna Structure Siting Protocol, required before a cell tower is built.
That process involved public consultation and saw only one response, from search and rescue, which supports the tower.
Search and rescue also wrote a letter supporting the tower, saying that rescuers often hear of hikers who have to walk or drive long distances simply just to notify services of a lost or injured person.
“This delay can reduce search and rescue effectiveness and potentially turn routine calls into full-scale operations.”
Having a cellphone tower nearby will be a “significant contribution to the safety and well-being of park visitors,” said search and rescue.
The city can’t technically prohibit cellphone towers, but it is allowed input on their location. That is passed on to Industry Canada, which makes the final decision.