The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has filed a lawsuit against the County of Berks and the Borough of Hamburg. The Conservancy is opposed to any tower that is located on the Hamburg Borough owned property in Albany Township.
A proposed 195-foot tall steel communications tower will be housed in a fenced area approximately 80 by 80 feet, along with a building for radio equipment and underground propane tanks that power a generator, said Berks County Director of Emergency Services, Brian Gottschall.
“This site is ideal as it is at a high altitude on a prominent feature with presence over both sides of the feature,” Gottschall said. “This is particularly important in northern Berks where there are numerous ridgelines that run both parallel and perpendicular to each other. Not being on a ridge means having to build more towers to both sides of the ridge.”
The land is owned by the Hamburg Borough, which, according to Gottschall, shares the County’s vision for an improved communications system. However, the land was given to the Borough as a gift and restricts any structures other than Appalachian Trail shelters, according to Karen Lutz, director of the mid-Atlantic region for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
“There is an administrative legal procedure which can be exercised to lift the deed restrictions,” said Lutz, “however neither the Borough of Hamburg nor Berks County have taken advantage of that appropriate process.”
The proposed site is adjacent to an existing communication tower.
“We are not creating a new feature in the viewshed, but rather are building our tower where a tower already exists,” Gottschall said.
Gottschall said the county’s most recent system is hardly a system at all. The current hardware was “cobbled together over many years. Some of the hardware dates back to the late 70s and operates on vacuum tube technology.”
Such a dated system proves an upgrade is necessary, but it comes with consequences. The new tower will have a negative impact on wildlife and trail users, according to Lutz.
Also according to Lutz, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton has expressed concerns about the potential hazard to migrating raptors and songbirds on the Kittatinny flyway, one of the world’s most significant migratory corridors.
“The Appalachian National Scenic Trail places significant value on scenic resources,” Lutz said. “The Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock are two of the most important vistas on the Appalachian Trail in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and are heavily visited by hikers. The proposed tower will be visible from the trail for quite some distance.”