Free Wi-Fi offered at select Grand Rapids parks

GRAND RAPIDS, me. (WOOD) – The coronavirus pandemic has taught us many valuable lessons. One of them: The importance of a strong Wi-Fi connection.

The city of Grand Rapids has gone a step further and now offers free WiFi in 10 public parks scattered across the city.

The city’s parks and recreation director David Marquardt says the goal is to bring internet access to people where they are most needed.

“We are trying to find as many ways as possible to provide better connectivity to Internet services where it is most needed in our city,” said Marquardt. “It’s free, open to the public, and there are no ads to filter through. There is no registration system, it is simple and intuitive. “

When you arrive at one of the parks, just go to your phone’s WiFi connection settings and tap on the network that corresponds to the name of the park you are in and where you are.

The money to fund this program comes from the CARES Act, federal dollars that were given away in support of COVID-19. According to Marquardt, the Wi-Fi connection helps fight the virus just like anything else.

“I feel like with this virus we have learned two things, this pandemic that we are operating in and the first is that it takes a lot of connectivity to learn how to make appointments for health reasons, e.g. Work, ”said Marquardt. “The second thing I think we have learned is that there is an urgent need to restore personal mental and physical health.”

This is one reason why some people don’t just use WiFi for important business meetings or planning health visits.

“I mean, it gives people more Wi-Fi coverage even when they’re playing games. There are a lot of things they can do on their phone that need data and Wi-Fi service, ”said Kim Garter, Grand Rapids resident. “I don’t see how it could hurt anything.”

Garter and many other people gathered to play the popular mobile game Pokemon GO. The game provides a way for the group to gather together safely, which they think will help their sanity.

“I have a few friends I meet here every Wednesday. We’re going to a number of different raids in the game together,” said Garter. “It’s my new group of friends, if you will.”

While parks are traditionally used to lure people into nature on their cell phones, the program offers the best of both worlds, according to Marquardt.

“You know, I got a little bit conflicted because I’m a ‘park guy’ right? This is a challenge for me in many ways, ”said Marquardt. “But the opportunity we see here is that there is an opportunity here to provide connectivity. It’s free, it’s an open public space, which is really a great thing. “

The parks featured on the list are:

  • Ah-Nab-Awen Park
  • Belknap Park
  • Briggs Park
  • Fish ladder park
  • Garfield Park
  • MacKay-Jaycees Park
  • Martin Luther King Park
  • Richmond Park
  • Riverside Park
  • Roosevelt Park

However, the connection cannot last forever. It’s just a one-year pilot program that ends in December unless the city votes to keep it long-term. Marquardt thinks they can.

“What we have seen so far is a lot of success and with it. I expect the program to continue. Maybe even expand, ”said Marquardt.

There is a limit of 50 users in each park. The WiFi extends over the entire radius of each park and turns off the beacon every night when the parks close.

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