knox snooze

Succotash my Balzac, dipshiitake.

So says Sam

Sam Venable has made his feelings about mobile phone towers in the GSMNP perfectly clear. He hates the very thought of it. Sam seems to think, along with many others around town, I might add, that mobile phones will be the end of us all. Those towers, he thinks, will destroy the "pristine" backcountry views, equating their visual impact with the air quality problems the area suffers.

This is about three potential towers. Three. I'm not sure when the last time was that Sam headed up the proposed locations for these towers, but they are hardly "pristine." They are two heavily trafficked picnic areas and one giant parking lot on the state line. Unless you consider hordes of tourists wielding camcorders, fanny packs, enormous igloo coolers, and battleship-sized SUVs full of squalling brats a pristine environment, then I'm not really sure what he's worried about disturbing.

Have you seen a mobile phone tower before?

Next to a parking lot of Expeditions, Suburbans and Rovers, I'd hardly call that conspicuous.

If mobile towers are to become a reality in the Park, they will be subject to public approval, and the phone company will be responsible for all construction costs as well as any impact costs associated with the construction. Nancy Gray, a spokesperson for the park assured Sam that it the approval would not be a hasty process.
There would be an environmental assessment or maybe an environmental impact statement addressing the visual and resource impacts.
What reveals Sam's ever-evolving codgerism most, though, is his willingness to dismiss the potential benefits of the towers. He goes so far as to say that the benefit to search-and-rescue operations is not worth spoiling his "pristine" view. He does not even try to address the benefit it would provide the hundreds and thousands of hikers who traverse the area, or the thousands of drivers and casual tourists who, like it or not, have and use mobile phones.
What's next, for heaven's sake? Sandwich boards on bears? Taped jingles to mingle with bird songs? Billboards along the road in Cades Cove?
Sam, you've always been kind of a grumpy old guy (so you would like us to think), but don't turn willfully ignorant on us too. We have enough of those around here.
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