Cell coverage in national park discussed at council

The lack of cell phone coverage through Kootenay National Park came up for discussion at the most recent Invermere council meeting.

The lack of cell phone coverage through Kootenay National Park came up for discussion at the most recent Invermere council meeting.

Invermere mayor Gerry Taft brought up the topic during the Friday, February 28th meeting, mentioning that he’s been incontact with a valley resident who is campaigning to get cell phone service in the park along Highway 93.

Taft related that some years ago Telus was given money to bring cell phone service to the long stretch through the nationalpark where it currently does not exist, but after meeting with Parks Canada, the company decided it would not be possibleand then turned to other projects.

“Telus essentially seems to have said it’s too expensive to put cell service in Kootenay National Park, so they did itsomewhere else where it was cheaper,” said Taft, adding that the lack of cell phone service is concerning since it makes itharder for those involved in accidents to get help.

“If it really is to difficult to do cell service, maybe there could be some kind of emergency phones,” said Taft.

Other council members asked Taft what leverage the District of Invermere has to get that kind of service installed in thepark, and he responded that while the district may have little influence over what Telus or Parks Canada choose to do, thatit could give a letter of support to the local resident campaigning for it.

“She can take that and maybe get a little bit further than she otherwise would, because she’s no longer approaching themas a lone individual. She has the backing of the district,” said Taft.

Council members agreed to send a letter of support and directed district staff to ask Telus and Parks Canada to come in toa committee of the whole or council meeting for an update on the issue of cell phone coverage in the park.

During the meeting, council members also received a report from Invermere Fire Rescue.

In the report Invermere fire chief Roger Ekman said 2016 had been quite normal in terns of fire incidents, and listed a totalof 95 responses by the local fire department, including 27 motor vehicle accident responses, 14 alarm activated responses,13 public service/education incidents, six lift assists, six chimney fires, five vehicles fires, four false alarms, four carbonmonoxide detectors alarms, three trash fires, three structural fires, three unclassified fires, two grass fires, one non-compliant campfire, one fire patrol response, one hazardous material fire, and one rescue and safety response.

Ekman wrote in the report that “2016 turned out to be an average year for the department with no surprising events,” andadded the department has 11 members certified to the interior level, seven members certified to exterior level but workingto achieve interior level certification, and six members working on the initial exterior level certification.

He added that recruitment and retention are going well and the department is striving to reach 35 members.