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Mount Rainier
Could the trails at the Paradise visitor area in Mount Rainier National Park soon be populated by people yapping or tapping on cell phones? (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Whether you wish to Instagram a picture of a wild flower or phone for help in an emergency, the ability to use a cell phone at all in Mount Rainier National Park could soon become a reality.

The National Park Service began taking comments Monday on a proposal to build a limited range wireless communications facility at the Paradise visitor area. An environmental assessment, aimed at granting co-location permits to Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and AT&T, calls for two potential outcomes: no action and action.

If the “no action” alternative is chosen, things will remain as they are, and visitors to the mountain south of Seattle will continue to go about their business without the ability to connect with the outside world.

If the “action” alternative wins out, supporting equipment would be installed in the east and west attics of the Jackson Visitor Center and antennas would be mounted and concealed behind outside panels on the gable ends of the building, according to the project description.

Jackson Visitor Center
Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise in Mount Rainier. (National Park Service Photo)

Paradise, on the south slope of Mount Rainier, is the most popular and heavily used area of the park, attracting an estimated 950,000 visitors in 2016, the environmental assessment states.

The Seattle Times pointed out in a story Tuesday that the park received 492 comments from the public when the idea was floated last fall. The reaction was split, with 249 supportive of the proposal to install cellular service at Paradise, and 241 against. Those in favor cited safety and accessibility, the assessment says, and ability to coordinate with others, while those against cited “the need to retain places where they could be unconnected, and preferred that others remain unconnected.”

The new public review and comment period ends on July 19.

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