Glacier National Park Radio Tower to be Upgraded

By Beacon Staff

The National Park Service will upgrade a radio antenna tower in the St. Mary area of Glacier National Park after undergoing an environmental analysis.

NPS Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels signed the decision on Jan. 22. The new tower will be roughly 80-foot tall with three legs and a steel lattice structure with a six-foot diameter microwave dish. Construction will take approximately three weeks, according to an announcement from the NPS.

The replacement tower will not be a cellular tower, nor will it provide cell phone service, according to Glacier Park Spokesperson Denise Germann. The tower will upgrade existing infrastructure and provide digital subscriber line (DSL) broadband Internet service to the greater St. Mary area as part of a larger statewide Montana Public Service Commission requirement mandating CenturyLink to upgrade communications capabilities at its rural exchanges. The tower will also support NPS radio communications equipment.

The greater St. Mary area is currently limited to cellular modem and satellite technologies for Internet services, and does not include the faster and larger capacity DSL Internet service for residential, visitor, and government use. CenturyLink’s Internet service near the St. Mary area has not been meeting the demands of local users, Germann said.

CenturyLink’s tower must be located within the park because the new system must be hardwired to the existing equipment building, which has been in the area since 1955.

Germann said the new tower will also replace the existing NPS radio tower after park management raised concerns about additional communications infrastructure in the park and to avoid placing an additional tower in the Divide Creek floodplain. The existing 70-foot tall tower will be removed and NPS radio equipment will be co-located with CenturyLink’s equipment on the replacement tower.

The decision document is available on the agency’s planning website.

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