18 February 2013

Ongoing Demise of Cherry County Viewscape

Construction of four cellular-service towers in Cherry county continues the ongoing demise of the viewscape in this portion of the north-central Sand Hills.

In April 2012, the cellular company Viaero applied for permission to construct the towers from county officials.

One tower location was in section 6, T34N R26W, along Highway 12 northeast of Valentine, and about one-half mile northward of the northern edge of Fort Niobrara NWR, and within three miles of the Niobrara River. This tower is self-supporting, with a 195 foot height.

It would be nothing new in particular, as there are other towers in this vicinity of the town.

Another tower locale was for the south side of Merriman, in section 20, T34N R37W, and self-supporting, meaning no guy wires were needed. Its height is 120 feet, apparently being a locus for service in the immediate area.

Further south were two new towers which significantly changed the landscape perspective. Both constructs were 330 feet in height, included guy lines and had a blinking line on its top.

The so-called "James Valley" tower occurs in section 7, T29N R37W, which is along Highway 61 and just south of Clifford Creek.

Further south along the same roadway, is the "Rothwell" tower in section 11, T25N R38W, on property recently sold by the Wearin Brothers Cattle Company. The tower site is directly east of the former headquarters for this ranch operation.

The blinking light at the apex of the tower is undoubtedly visible from the other hilltop in the area, perhaps even Old Baldy, off west near the county boundary. Two nights spent atop this dune years ago, provided a perspective to remember.

The Highway 61 corridor is also the location of two other communication towers.

Miles south of Merriman, past the Niobrara River valley, is the 1000+ foot-tall tower which issues the signal for Nebraska Public Radio, and maintained by Nebraska Educational Telecommunications. This tower has many guy lines. It is a dominant feature.

In 2001, a cellular company got permission to construct a tower in section 20, T27N R37W, just a few miles east of the highway.

Depending upon the perspective, and viewing conditions, the prominence of these towers varies. The blinks of lights are certainly obvious on a clear night from any of the local hills hilltops.

The leases provide cash money for the property owners. The only thing they have to do is enter into an agreement, and then sign the back of the checks regularly received.

Lights of a 330 foot tower can certainly be visible from more than 15 miles distant on a clear night. A 1000 foot tower, with even a greater number of lights can be seen from ever a broader extent of the hills. The overall impact, spreading across a vast number of miles, has permanently altered the sandhills. It is obvious that their construction meant a loss of the very essence attributed to the region as a vast landscape, the proverbial sea of grass.

The demise of the night skyscape will continue. Its essential nature is already gone.

View Tower and Hill Locations - north-central Sand Hills, Nebraska in a larger map