Still no plans for cellular service in Golden Ears park

Originally posted by Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows News
Author: Neil Corbett

No way to call out during an emergency in the Maple Ridge park.

The young man in Golden Ears Provincial Park had just watched his friend go over a waterfall in a plunge that was sure to endanger his life. There were other witnesses there with cellular phones, but nobody could call 9-1-1.

Providing cell phone service in Golden Ears Provincial Park is about more than just convenience for campers, it could save lives.

“For us, it’s important,” said Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue manager Rick Laing, who has advocated for improved cell service in the park for years.

Rogers Communications has inquired about putting a cell tower next to Alouette campground in the park, and it appeared imminent when the company notified Maple Ridge city council in 2015, but still there is no tower.

“Through network testing and feedback from our customers, we identified the need to explore making improvements to cell reception in Golden Ears park and that work continues,” said Lisa Rossington, manager of regional public affairs for Rogers.

“We are always reviewing our expansion options and we continue to work with our government partners. At this time, we have no timeline to share,” she added.

The increasingly popular park is seeing as many as 800,000 visitors per year.

Laing said being able to call emergency responders would not have helped the 23-year-old Langley man who fell from the top of the falls in Gold Creek on April 9, because the water is so treacherous at this time of year. His body has not been recovered.

“In this type of scenario, it probably would not have helped,” he said on the day.

However, there have been people fall in that canyon and injure themselves – and even survive going over the falls. In those types of situations, emergency response times could be critical, Laing said.

In the best of circumstances, the Maple Ridge fire department could get members on scene in the park in 20 minutes. If park users have to hike out to a place where they can get phone service, then response times can increase dramatically.

Calls to rescue injured hikers or boaters using the park are not uncommon. Laing said 9-1-1 dispatchers also keep people reporting emergencies on the line, so responders can get updates about the situation, but even when people can get cell service in the park, calls are often dropped.

Laing said the rescue team can communicate using a satellite phone.

“So we have a means of making calls once we’re up there, but for the public it’s important.”

Copyright 2017 Maple Ridge News