This tree talks | VailDaily.com

This tree talks

Cliff Thompson
Vail Daily/Preston UtleyA new cell phone tower made to look like a tree stands near 6th and Squaw Creek Road
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In this increasingly urbanized world, sometimes it’s difficult to tell the forest from the cell towers.That’s the case at Squaw Creek, just west of Edwards. When T-Mobile, a cellular company, approached the county for a special permit for a new cell phone tower to boost signal strength through Edwards, homeowners at the nearby Cordillera wanted the company to install something besides a basic steel pole.

What they got, was a $60,000 “Monopine.” This artificial tree uses stealth to conceal its real function. It looks so much like a spruce that birds perch on it. If you didn’t look carefully, you’d never notice it wasn’t a tree. The tower is made of steel and coated with rubberized bark and lifelike branches and needles. Concealed in the branches are the cell receivers.”It actually improves the landscape,” said Ron Brave, president of the Cordillera Metropolitan District Board. “People ask me what happened to all that work was going on there.”It took 18 months to work through the issues of appearance. The tree, appropriately enough, is made by a California firm, Chameleon, which takes its name from the lizard-like creature’s ability to blend in with the surroundings. The company makes trees that will blend in with nearly any forest type.

“If you’re going 72 miles per hour down the highway, you’re never going to see it,” said Chris Stryker, a site acquisition specialist for Infranext, a consulting organization for T-Mobile. “Our stealth application reduced the visual impact.”Stryker said a typical cell monopole tower costs about $20,000. This one costs extra because of the artificial tree and because it has a dozen real spruce trees cloaking its base. Stryker said T-Mobile wants to improve the cell phone coverage in Edwards that is impaired by the mountainous terrain. Cell phones need a line of sight to function properly.

It’s not the first such tower. There is one outside of Glenwood and a couple of more between Denver and Colorado Springs along Interstate 25.The new tower has been functioning for several weeks. Cliff Thompson can be contacted via e-mail at cthompson@vaildaily.com or by calling 949-0555, ext. 450.




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