poorly disguised cell tower/tree? It's supposed to fool
The cell phone has conquered our society. Now it's going after
(08/08) The other day I was driving down the Pennsylvania
Turnpike when something caught my eye. On the right side of the
road was a tree. Now we have plenty of trees in Pennsylvania,
so this in itself was not particularly significant. What caught
my attention about the tree was its esthetics: It had none. It
was the homeliest, butt-ugliest tree in existence.
Now there are some nature lovers who believe no
tree can be truly ugly. But with apologies to Joyce Kilmer (that's
the man who wrote the verse that starts "I think I shall never
see a poem lovely as a tree…") this tree was truly an offense
to nature. Kilmer had obviously never observed this particular
species of gymnosperm. It shot up to perhaps a hundred feet in
height with a perfectly straight trunk and only the last twenty
feet or so at the top had foliage. The horrid thing was apparently
some sort of evergreen and those last few feet formed a strangely
perfect - almost stereotypical perfect - cone shape.
cell phone antenna located on an existing power line tower.
As I drew closer to the hideous thing I realized
that Kilmer was right after all. His rhyme ends with "Poems are
made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree." Indeed this
monstrosity was not created by God, but by man. It wasn't really
a tree, but a cell antenna tower in disguise.
Rise of the Cellular Culture
Cell phones are ubiquitous in the United States
and common place throughout most of the rest of the world. The
number of cell phones on our planet moved past the 1 billion mark
in 2002. The most recent figures I've seen show the number of
subscribers in the United States alone at about 300 million.
Since the phones and other related devices like
PDAs are small with tiny batteries, their ability to transmit
signals any distance is severely limited. Typically, if your cell
phone isn't within three miles of a tower, it won't work. Areas
with lots of hills that interfere with radio waves may require
even closer distances. As more and more cell phones and other
devices (like PDAs and pagers) that use the cell network come
on line, the number of cell towers around us will continue to
cell phone tower disguised as a modern church steeple.(Courtesy
This hasn't caused much of a problem in big cities
where a few more antennas sprouting from big buildings are hardly
noticeable. Originally even in suburban and rural locations where
towers wereplaced out of sight in industrial parks there wasn't
a problem either. These locations were fine when most people just
used the phones to communicate while driving along the highway.
As cell phone usage has moved into the home and started replacing
"land lines" (with the help of all those teenagers sitting in
their rooms and texting their friends) cell phone companies have
found it necessary to put towers in the heart of residential areas.
Many of those living in the surrounding houses, however, have
found the towers esthetically displeasing and have moved to limit
their numbers. This means that companies that want to build cell
towers have found increasing community opposition to new installations.
In some cases they have been lucky enough to be able to simply
locate their cell equipment onto an existing tower. For example,
a power line tower can also carry cell antennas. Where there are
no existing usable towers or structures available, however, companies
have been forced to find other ways to erect their antennas while
appeasing nearby residents.
Cell Tower Locations
spent some time thinking about this problem and wondering
what kind of disguises or blending could be done with cell
towers at some famous locations. Check out the results of
my musings here around the page.
This had led to a whole side industry that makes
money by disguising cell phone towers either by making them blend
into the landscape or giving them an alternate identity. Larson
Utility Camouflage of Tucson, Arizona, is one of the largest companies
that does this. They can hide the towers as trees, flagpoles and
even as saquaro cacti (that's the type of cactus you seen in old
westerns that sport the arms). In addition, the company can also
create fake man-made buildings to hide the antennas.
In rural Illinois amidst rolling farm fields, Larson
disguised one tower as a fake grain silo. In southern California
the company built a fake rustic water tower to contain antennas
(apparently an old water tower is considered more picturesque
than a modern cell tower). To hide an installation on an existing
west coast building they also constructed a fake chimney.
Probably my favorite disguised cell tower is masquerading
as a lighthouse. It looks very nice, though the fact that it is
located twenty miles from any major body of water is a dead giveaway
that the structure is not exactly what it seems to be.
Cell Towers I - Tourists will find this antenna on top
of the tower of Big Ben will give them four bars while visiting
the sights of London Town.
Churches have become unexpected allies to the phone
companies. Many older cathedrals and chapels have high steeples
or bell towers which make perfect platforms for cellular antennas.
The antennas just need to be hidden inside. Churches also have
the advantage of often being located in residential sections of
the city, just the area where the tower builders find the most
resistance to building new structures, but need more coverage.
Most churches are happy to let their steeples be wired up as they
get a significant lease fee for letting the phone company use
Even if a church has no steeple, they can still
benefit. Tower builders will go as far as adding a steeple to
an existing building or creating a freestanding bell tower, or
even a giant cross as long as they can load it with cell equipment.
Neighbors are not always happy when the church across the street
decides to put up a hundred foot-high cross on their property.
However, because of the traditional constitutional protection
of religion in the United States, churches have more freedom to
push the zoning codes than a business would. This raises an interesting
ethical question: Should you erect a new cross or steeple over
your neighbors objections, if you are doing it less for religious
convictions, and more from the revenue from the cell antennas
contained inside it?
Cell Towers II - This tower, replacing the troublesome
torch, should give coverage to Liberty Island, neighboring
Ellis Island, and most of downtown Manhattan.
Neighborhood schools are also finding they can make
a profit from the cellular business. Schools, like churches, are
often located in residential neighborhoods making them prime locations
for antennas. School districts almost invariably need money and
the leasing fees can buy a lot of extra books or fund new uniforms
for the marching band.
Mounting cell phone towers on top of schools, though,
makes some people nervous. Several groups have claimed that the
electromagnetic radiation from cell tower antennas can increase
the risk of cancer. However, no reputable study has ever established
a relationship between cell towers and cancer and there is no
known scientific mechanism that could produce such cancer. A more
likely source of trouble is the signals coming directly from cell
phones. These are weaker that those coming from a tower, but given
cell phones are usually held directly up against the operator's
head within inches of the brain, they would be a better candidate
for a public health problem. Again, there is no known scientific
mechanism for suggest this is dangerous, but a study recently
found a possible connection between long term (ten years) cell
phone use and certain types of rare brain tumors. Many other studies
have failed to show such a link, and the subject is still being
hotly debated. More studies are sure to follow.
Cell Towers III - The ruins at Petra, Jordan, are considered
to be one of the world's great treasures, but the high surrounding
cliffs limit cell phone usage - that is,until this tower
is tastefully added to the top of The Monastery.
With no proof of health issues, communities can't
legally keep cell towers out, though they have managed in many
cases to insist that they be hidden. But are these, somewhat inept
deceptions (like my ugly tree) worth it?
Now I don't think that I'm a Ludite. I'm not anti-cell
phone. Not even anti-cell phone tower. Some of the disguises blend
in so well to the surrounding area that people don't even realize
they are there. What concerns me is badly disguised cell phone
towers and antenna that, in my opinion, look worse than just a
Usually man-made structures that hide cell towers
appear to be fairly effective. Most often it's when they try and
mimic a natural object, like tree, that things get ugly. In fact,
I will even go so far as to say that some of the trees look good
if they are grouped with real trees of the same size and type
- the palms with their long, branchless straight trunks and cluster
of foliage at the very top seem to work well. It's the solitary
one hundred foot tall pine with a handful of branches at the top
sitting in the middle of a farm field that looks ridiculous.
To paraphrase Kilmer, "I think that I shall never
see, a cell phone tower lovely as a tree…"
Cell Towers IV - The Taj Mahal is one place everybody
needs to see before they die. With dual towers, staying
in contact will the rest of the world will be no problem
anywhere around the extensive gardens.
Copyright Lee Krystek,
2008. All Rights Reserved.