Cell towers and sight lines

September 24, 2018

People come to Santa Fe for its beauty. So what a surprise to find that city leaders apparently don’t mind if this beauty is spoiled by strange towers that have recently sprung up in highly visible parts of south Santa Fe.

Outside one of the biggest windows in the Genoveva Chavez Community Center, one of the premier fitness facilities in the state, there now stands a menacing tower for swimmers to contemplate. With its strange scuba-like tanks and protruding hoses and cables, it looks like some slender armless robot from the Terminator movies, or perhaps some experimental Nazi-era rocket.

Meanwhile, perhaps a quarter-mile away, rising above the fairgrounds, there is now another bizarre tower. This one is even taller, perhaps taller than the Chavez Center. It is perhaps 10- to 15-feet wide, supported by a lattice-work of heavy steel beams. The upper half is surrounded by three tall rectangular panels featuring a mosaic of large gray and tan squares. It is in plain view of the rodeo grandstand and mars the horizon from several surrounding neighborhoods. It towers over the Arroyo Chamiso Trail, inviting passersby to consider how we are all destined to live in adobe houses in the sky — or something.

Presumably, these towers are related to cellular or radio communications. While it is hard to argue with the need for improved cellular and radio communications, do we really need to put towers in such highly visible locations? Must they really be so ugly? In some cities, such towers are disguised as flag poles or even trees. In an artistic town like Santa Fe, who knows what creative disguises the community might be able to come up with.

If the gray and tan panels on the fairground tower are meant to be camouflage, they fail miserably. Perhaps they should be blue to match the sky? Or perhaps we should forget camouflage and try to put the panels to some good use, like advertising upcoming events at the fairground. Changing the panels to LED screens would allow for a rotating series of messages.

Of course, if the tower is going to double as a billboard, it might be better to move it closer to Rodeo Road. This might make more sense. Why should walkers, joggers and bicyclist trying to enjoy a little of Santa Fe’s natural beauty be accosted with an ugly tower? It is mostly the people driving in their cars who are using cellular and radio communications, so it makes some sense to force drivers to look at the towers we are erecting for their benefit.

These towers are symptomatic of a bigger problem, which is the failure to value the beauty of Santa Fe. This is especially noticeable along the Arroyo Chamiso Trail, where a fire station encroaches within a dozen feet of the trail, where an old wooden fence separating the trail from a large retailer is constantly in a state of disrepair, where trash cans along the trail have no lids and trash frequently blows onto the trail or into the arroyo.

Santa Fe may be the City Different, but it won’t stay that way if we don’t show more respect for what’s left of its natural beauty.

Dan Frazier is a small business owner who often uses the Arroyo Chamiso Trail to get to the Genoveva Chavez Community Center.

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