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Three downtown Boise parks will add free wifi 📶

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Boise is wiring up three of its downtown parks to Wifi to add connectivity for attendees at special events and anyone visiting the parks. 

By next fall, the City of Boise’s Parks and Recreation Department plans to have wireless internet up and running at Ann Morrison, Julia Davis and Cecil D. Andrus parks. This will create permanent infrastructure for organizations holding events in the park and for visitors to the area to use for free. It will work similarly to the iFly Boise wireless network at the Boise Airport where anyone can access it and use at their convenience while visiting the city-owned building. 

Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway said this program will help add to the resources available for parks and open the possibility for more amenities. He said in the past, the city had conversations about adding digital informational materials through a phone app or augmented reality, like the popular game Pokemon Go, to help visitors learn about the environment, but they didn’t want to implement the program unless anyone could use it, even if they didn’t have a data plan. 

“It goes back several years where we’ve been having conversations with our IT team and other organizations with how we can overall make our parks more accessible to our public users,” Holloway said. “Both in terms of those visiting the park and how those events that are organized and happen weekly in those park locations as well and their ease and access to connectivity. It really came down to accessibility and creating a city for everyone means making our parks even more accessible as well.”

The city budgeted $2.3 million for the project, with all but $300,000 coming from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. 

Why these parks?

Holloway said these three parks were selected for a variety of reasons. 

Of all of the city’s parks, these three are the highest volume for visitors to the park system, host the most private events, and are also located in census tracts Holloway says have low-income residents in need of access to the internet. Downtown Boise has lots of high-end housing, but it is also home to several low-income housing complexes in a variety of locations and all of Boise’s homeless shelters. 

Right now, anytime special events are held at these parks, the city runs special infrastructure to the area to provide event organizers with access to the internet. This requires city staff to set up infrastructure and tear it down frequently, so a permanent wireless internet system would end this cycle. Holloway also said the proximity to the Greenbelt will allow better opportunities for first responders two handle emergencies in the area. 

When asked why the city chose to do this project in three parks, all in the downtown area instead of more spread out other areas of the city with low-income residents in need of access, IT Department Director Alex Winkler said this project is a pilot project, and they needed parks with high volumes of users and events to successfully test the idea. 

She said if the city were to budget more funds in the future wireless connectivity could easily be built out in other parks like Veterans Memorial Park or other locations. 

“We wanted to trial it in the place that has the most usage so we could figure out what works and what doesn’t work so we can establish connectivity,” she said. 

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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