How connected should national parks be?

Posted at 6:33 PM, Feb 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-22 20:33:38-05

How much are you interested in WiFi and cell connectivity when visiting our National Parks?

The National Parks Service is taking on a modest effort to study our country’s 410 National Parks and look at bringing more connectivity to them.

It’s an effort that shouldn’t change much in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Right now, the park already has WiFi and cell reception in the developed areas and visitors centers, but not on most of the trails.

“95% of Rocky Mountain National Park is a designated wilderness, where cell phone towers would be prohibited,” said Kyle Patterson, spokesperson for Rocky Mountain National Park.  “There’s many areas in the park that are either down in canyons, drainage areas that really don’t have good cell phone coverage and it would be pretty impossible to have good cell phone coverage many of the places.”

Visitors come from all over the world to see Rocky Mountain National Park and just last year, the park broke attendance records.

Many of those visitors want to get their images on social media sites right away.

“This is good advertisement for the state itself, I mean you get to show everybody at home on your social media which brings people to your state, so I think it’s a great thing,” said Jarl Haugedal, who visited the park from New York.  “You don’t look as much as you should at the nature itself, you probably look more at your phone, because you want to share with everybody else, but on the other hand, it’s definitely a good sales point for the state.”

Many others would simply like to get away and don’t want to feel connected to their phones and devices.

“When I’m out here I’m really happy to be in the mountains and back to nature and taking a break,” said Theresa McHenry, who visited from Virginia.  “It’s a getaway you want to take a break, you don’t want to have to be connected all the time, there is no reason to be, we didn’t used to be and we got along just fine and we had great vacations and I showed you my pictures in person when I got home and you still liked them.”

With so many people visiting the parks and spending time outdoors, there is always a safety risk.  It’s concerning to some Denver7 spoke with that you can't call for help when and if you need it.

“You might have access, you might not, and so there needs to be other tools that you take with you in case there is an emergency,” said Patterson.

National Parks Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, supports the availability of WiFi in developed areas of national parks. These are places such as visitor centers and visitor lodging facilities. 

"I'm not suggesting -- nor do I think it's appropriate -- that you have wireless connectivity on the Colorado River as you go down the Grand Canyon. But if you're on the south rim and you're sitting on the deck of the El Tovar Hotel, then I think it's perfectly appropriate that you might have wireless connectivity or at least be able to access your Facebook page and upload your photos," said Jarvis.

There is currently no timeline to how quickly more parks like the Grand Canyon, could see an increase in connectivity.


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