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Shallotte Park is no longer just a hot spot for recreation.
Brunswick County has added wireless Internet to the park. No password is required to access the Internet, just a click on the county’s terms of service agreement.
Parks and Recreation director Jim Pryor said the Wi-Fi has been up and running for about three weeks.
He said the project came about after the department received comments about how nice it would be to have Internet access there, especially during tournaments.
“The parents and people traveling (to tournaments at Shallotte Park) can get on the wireless network,” Pryor said.
He said Commissioner Marty Cooke was also a strong proponent.
In his term as a commissioner, Cooke has encouraged adding Wi-Fi in public libraries and in the commissioners’ meeting room in the county complex, but the idea of Wi-Fi in the park didn’t occur to him, and wouldn’t have if local youth coach Joe Stanley had not proposed it, he said.
“Joe Stanley contacted me a year ago with the idea of putting Wi-Fi in the parks. I thought it was a great idea,” Cooke said.
Cooke said the idea appealed to him more after he considered the number of people who use the park and the number of smart\phones and tablets that are now in use.
“It’s becoming understood, so many people depend on wireless,” Cooke said. “My kids do their homework on the web.”
Cooke credited Steve Randone in the county’s GIS department for getting the wireless connection set up.
“Jim talked to our IT department. It was relatively inexpensive, so we did it,” Cooke said.
Pryor said the county looked at contracting with a private vendor like ATMC for wireless service, but decided running it through the county’s network was more cost effective.
Pryor said the Wi-Fi set up is funded through the GIS budget.
“All of the technology dollars come out of Steve’s pot of money, but it was not really that expensive,” he said.
Shallotte Park is the busiest of Brunswick County’s 13 parks, making it the best option for a pilot program, Pryor said.
“In the fall there are baseball and softball tournaments, a football team practices there, there are tennis courts and the dog park,” he said.
“The key issue was putting in the (wireless) device. We needed a place inside for it. We put it in the park supervisor’s office.
The best coverage is expected near concession stand area, dugouts at the ball field just north of the main office, the picnic shelter east of the main office, and the parking lot on both sides of the main office.
Pryor said parks and recreation will gauge the use of the wireless for a couple months to look at how quickly they might install wireless in other parks, but there is no timeframe for installing the service elsewhere.
“We’ll see what the interest and usage is,” Pryor said.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.