ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – Modern technology forced by modern needs could alter a pristine Adirondack landscape that’s captivated artists for more than a century.

Nextel Partners is proposing a 114-foot tower tapering up from a 7-foot wide base to provide cellular phone service for its customers. The camouflaged tower would provide service to the Adirondack’s notorious no-service zones along the eastern part of Lake George to the tourist attraction known as the Million Dollar Beach.

The tower would soar from a forested peninsula known as Pilot Knob in the town of Fort Ann up Buck Mountain, a subject painted by Georgia O’Keefe and others in works hanging in galleries from Manhattan to Washington, D.C.

“Placing a steel and plastic cell tower above the tops of every tree in the forest on Pilot Knob would be like painting a beard and mustache on the “Mona Lisa,”‘ said Brian Houseal of The Adirondack Council, an environmental group. “The landscape around Pilot Knob is an American icon.”

But officials at Nextel and the state Adirondack Park Agency who would have to approve the tower say they are sensitive to the concern.

The tower would be part of a new brand of high-tech tower that tries to mimic trees and vegetation. Nextel proposes to paint the tower brown at its lowest sections and attach fake branches to make the tower appear to be a white pine, albeit more than 30 feet higher than any surrounding trees.

Critics dub it “Frankenpine.”

“Basically we think this will be very unobtrusive,” countered Michael Rapp of Nextel, based in Kirkland, Wash. “The mountain continues to climb up and it will blend into that background.”

The firm also proposes to paint its small shed at the base of the tower to blend into the area and to install a wooden stockade fence rather than the traditional chain link.

The tower will require six months to build, if all approvals are secured.

The APA is holding several hearings to collect input and to consider more details. The APA board wouldn’t likely vote on the proposal before September, said the APA’s Dan Fitts.

The Adirondack Council and opponents of the proposal in Fort Ann are calling for antennas to be placed instead on existing structures, perhaps church steeples and water towers.

Fitts said he’s not sure those structures are available in the area in which the cell antennas are needed, but the agency will explore that. He said, however, that images of the camouflaged towers provided by Nextel appear to blend in well with trees and plants.

On the Net:

Adirondack Park Agency

The Adirondack Council


AP-ES-07-08-04 2004EDT

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