LOCAL NEWS

Why are antennas popping up all over the foothills? Salt Lake City seeks to solve mystery

Jan 4, 2023, 6:10 PM | Updated: 6:18 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — On Wednesday, Salt Lake City public lands officials hiked for hours up a snowy trail to remove a mysterious device – one that’s popping up all over the foothills.

It consists of a locked battery box, a solar panel, and an antenna, according to Tyler Fonarow, the city’s recreational trails manager.

“These towers have been bolted into different peaks and summits and ridges around the foothills,” Fonarow explained, “and it started with one or two, and now it might be as much as a dozen.”

The first ones appeared about a year ago, but Fonarow said many more were found in the past few months. The small towers don’t have permits, and it’s unclear who’s installing them.

“We just don’t leave things on public lands anymore. You have to ask for permission,” he said.

One was removed last week and another on Wednesday, with more will be removed in the coming weeks.

“Once we get up to the Twin Peaks, it gets real steep, so we were up there. There were five of us, and then we took some kids’ sleds to bring the equipment down to make it a little bit easier on us,” Fonarow said.

Additional ones have been found on property managed by the Forest Service and the University of Utah.

In a statement, a university spokesman said: “Since Salt Lake City leaders alerted the University of Utah to the unauthorized solar panel towers in the foothills northeast of the Avenues neighborhood, University of Utah representatives have been actively coordinating with City Public Lands officials to determine whether any member of our campus community is connected to the towers. As far as we know, the tower located on university property is not owned or operated by the university. We appreciate Salt Lake City’s collaboration and dedicated efforts to identify the owners.”

Fonarow hopes to educate people that items cannot simply be left or installed on public lands.

“It might be related to cryptocurrency and relaying networks and being able to make money off that,” he said, “so that’s another reason we want to stop it now before it becomes a dumping ground for dozens and dozens of more antennas.”

Fonarow pointed out that cryptocurrency is just one idea the city has heard. Trail officials may learn more once the locked boxes are opened.

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Why are antennas popping up all over the foothills? Salt Lake City seeks to solve mystery