NO BRIGHT LIGHT ON THIS GRAY DAY – Some might call it Excalibur, the 20 foot extension on the cell tower on the hill in Pioneer Park. Folks have reported it gleams and shines when the late afternoon sun hits it. Not this  week.                                                                                      – Photo by Ken Stern
NO BRIGHT LIGHT ON THIS GRAY DAY – Some might call it Excalibur, the 20 foot extension on the cell tower on the hill in Pioneer Park. Folks have reported it gleams and shines when the late afternoon sun hits it. Not this week. – Photo by Ken Stern

Lighting Rainbow Bridge has created a welcome nighttime glow in La Conner this winter. 

But another new look, atop Pioneer Park, is intended to refract rather than transmit light. 

It is the 20-foot extension of the Crown Castle Cell Tower, put in place last month – like the lights on the bridge – but fitted with a special camouflage film that allows it and attached antennas to mimic the sky and blend in with the surrounding area. 

There are, however, late afternoons this time of year when lighting conditions are aligned such that the tower extension is momentarily aglow from the setting sun. 

Still, for the most part, it goes unnoticed. 

And that, Town officials say, is quite by design – unlike the lit bridge, which has drawn inquiries from other communities about how they can illuminate their spans. 

“It doesn’t look too bad,” Mayor Ramon Hayes said Friday as he squinted toward the tower extension from outside his downtown gallery, “especially when you consider the benefit the Town receives. It was a good trade.” 

Here is why, he said. 

By agreeing to the extension, the Town received $100,000 from Castle Crown, which acts as something akin to a property manager for carriers utilizing the tower, explained Town Public Works Director Brian Lease. 

Installing the extension was no simple feat, Lease told the Weekly News, noting access from the northeast edge of Pioneer Park to the cell tower base is made via a steep and narrow access road with a sharp hairpin curve. 

“They had to get a specialized crane up there to do the job,” he said. 

The effort was well worthwhile to all parties. 

Under terms of an agreement negotiated in 2019, the Town stands to realize increased revenue from lease fees collected for having earlier made space available for the tower. On the Castle Crown side, the extension allows it to take on another carrier and provide better reception and service to customers. 

Lease and Town Administrator Scott Thomas said the project was subject to a rigorous permit process, including public input. 

Prior to moving forward with the tower extension plan, Hayes and Town Council members in February 2019 hosted a presentation by a trio of Crown Castle reps who said sun glare would not be a problem due to masking technology developed to refract light. That also solved the 20 foot extension’s visibility problem for concerned councilmembers.

Once the camouflage issue and those related to excise taxes and potential erosion were resolved, the Council moved forward with endorsing the project. 

“It’s been quite a lengthy process,” Lease said. “This has been taking place over the course of the last year and a half or two years.”