Stealth tower

Not a Dr. Seuss tree — this stealth tower, somewhat disguised as a super-gigantic Ponderosa pine, is a U.S. Cellular tower located off the North Highway near the Rimrock Inn. The tower, which became operational in May, will provide badly needed cell service to the northern portion of Wallowa County.

If you are heading north on Highway 3 toward Lewiston, just before you get to the RimRock Inn you might notice a really, really big pine tree towering above the other ponderosas and Douglas firs off to the left. Its branches are a little short and a little stiff. It’s diameter at breast height is about eight feet. And although at first glance it looks like a world-class old-growth yellow pine has sprouted almost overnight, it’s really not a tree at all.

Don’t worry. You haven’t traveled through a time warp to a Lewis Carroll or Dr. Seuss tale. Nor is this a tree that timber fellers spared.

It’s one of many styles of Stealth Cell towers, which now are frequently disguised as trees, lighthouses, water towers, light poles, and even church steeples to help them blend into their surrounding “habitat.”

The county’s planning commission approved a conditional use permit at the 261-acre site, which is owned by Donald and Barbara Ward, at its February 2019 meeting. The project needed a CUP because it is placed in a Timber/Grazing zone.

Surprising to some, perhaps, the commission did not receive a single dissenting call or letter. In fact, at the February meeting, the commission revealed that the proposed tower received 41 letters of support.

The commission confirmed it’s findings at it’s meeting in the following month, and general contractor, Doug Snyder, began building the stealth tower in April. It went online May 28.

Built by Sky-Comm, Inc, of Vancouver, Washington for U.S. Cellular, the 180-foot tower transmits 4G data streams and voice LTE, or VoLTE, signals. It relays those signals it collects to Tollgate via a microwave antenna that looks like a strange, giant, metallic pine cone growing out of its west side.

The tower will provide cell coverage for much of the North End of Wallowa County, including Troy and Flora through US Cellular service or, for many (but not all, including Verizon) other carriers, extended service.

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