ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — After having considered the top of the tallest mountain in Maine’s only national park as the location for a new 80-foot-tall communications tower, a federal agency has changed its mind.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, part of Department of Homeland Security, set its sights on Cadillac Mountain as a potential tower site earlier this year. Officials with Acadia said they found out about CBP’s interest from the Penobscot Nation and that they did not favor erecting any more radio towers on top of the mountain, which is one of the more popular sites in the park. Cadillac Mountain, which is more than 1,500 feet tall, looms over the ocean and is the only mountain in the park with a public, paved road to the summit.
Park officials said this week they recently received a letter from Barry Bracken, Houlton project manager for Customs and Border Protection, that indicated the security agency changed its mind after talking to Acadia officials and others on Mount Desert Island.
“In the course of these discussions it became apparent that both the National Park Service and the local community are opposed to additional … improvements on Cadillac Mountain,” the undated letter indicated. “As such, CBP has removed development of this site from our [improved communications] deployment strategy.”
The proposal from CBP was similar to a proposal the park received in 2007 from the Coast Guard. In that proposal, the Coast Guard indicated it wanted to erect a tower between 80 and 100 feet tall on top of Cadillac for another new communications system.
After Acadia officials objected to that proposal, the Coast Guard instead decided to erect new towers in Harrington and on Swan’s Island.
There already are two communications towers on top of Cadillac Mountain. One is a 60-foot tower with an antenna that sticks up another 10 feet, which is used by federal agencies and the Island Explorer bus system. The second is 40 feet tall, which is approximately the same height as the surrounding trees, and is used by state and local agencies.
In a letter sent in October to CBP officials, Acadia Superintendent Sheridan Steele indicated that by building a higher tower on Cadillac, the CBP project would have an adverse effect on visitor enjoyment, historic resources, and traditional American Indian activities at the summit. It also could interfere with migratory birds and negatively affect other park resources and values, Steele wrote.
On Friday, Steele reiterated the park’s position on communications towers on Cadillac by saying that the park’s eventual goal is to remove or reduce the visual impact of the existing towers at the mountain’s summit. It certainly is opposed to adding to that visual impact by increasing the number or height of towers that are there, he said.
“We do appreciate Customs and Border Protection looking at other alternatives,” the park superintendent said. “The real winners [of that decision] are the park visitors. This is another step in preserving the magnificent view up there.”
Steele said there is always another chance that another federal agency will want to erect another communications tower at the top of the mountain, but his preference would be not to have to fend off any more unwanted tower proposals. With any luck, he added, the latest proposal from CBP will be the last one.
“I hope so,” he said.