Ham Club Relocating Repeater from Toppled Tower
In the wake of what authorities in California believe is a case of vandalism that led to the collapse of a 200 foot radio tower on the West Coast, the Mount Diablo Amateur Radio Club plans to relocate its gear from the Rocky Ridge tower site to another tower nearby. Jim Siemons, AF6PU, says his club’s repeater committee decided this week to remove MDARC’s heavily used 144.390 MHz packet/APRS digipeater from the equipment vault on Rocky Ridge as soon as the club can get physical access.
“The plan is to, at least temporarily, relocate the digipeater to the North Peak of Mount Diablo, where we are now building an ATV repeater system,” Siemons told ARRL, adding that the move could happen as soon as Saturday. “The North Peak of Mount Diablo should offer packet and APRS coverage to the majority of Northern California,” he added.
Despite the tower collapse, the club’s radio systems continued to work. “Even though the prostrated tower with our antenna lay flat on the ground, our packet system faithfully continued to operate for a couple of days subsequent to the collapse,” Siemons noted. He said American Tower Corporation has indicated that it plans to restore some of the most critical public safety radio services within a week.
Late on July 28 or early on July 29, authorities say, vandals apparently cut several guy wires supporting the Rocky Ridge radio tower, located in the hills of the Las Trampas Regional Wilderness above San Ramon and Danville, causing the 200 foot structure to crash to the ground. Siemons says the Rocky Ridge Tower “has been a key communications tower for amateur, commercial, and public safety radio operators, alike” and served as “an important communications hub in the Contra Costa and Alameda counties’ East Bay Regional Communications System Authority. (EBRSCA) group that is just now providing P25 communications to many municipalities and districts within the San Francisco East Bay.”
Until the tower is restored, Siemons predicted “challenges with coverage” in certain coverage areas. KCBS Radio in San Francisco this week reported that police were investigating the tower collapse. No injuries occurred. Damage could go as high as $1 million. A Contra Costa County Fire official told the radio station that the tower collapse had affected some dispatch services in the western part of the county, but police say back-up systems headed off any disruptions. According to KCBS, police “are trying to determine why vandals would target the tower, which is located in a remote area of the park behind multiple gates and fences.” — Thanks to Jim Siemons, AF6PU, and KCBS Radio