ARLINGTON — While the rest of downtown was caught up in the revels of the city’s second annual Viking Fest, the merchants’ parking lot at 323 N. Olympic Ave. served as the site for city officials to illustrate some quality-of-life benefits that are coming, courtesy of America’s Best Communities.
Oct. 1 saw the start of Arlington’s first free public Wi-Fi hot-spot, within a half-block radius of the parking lot, while citizens were able to vote on possible designs for a “pocket park” covering a 20-square-foot area of the parking lot.
Sarah Lopez, recreation and communications manager for the city, reported that younger visitors to the site favored structures that they could climb on, while all ages seemed to prefer more colorful designs.
“We posted pictures of miniature urban parks from around the world as examples,” Lopez said, pointing to the sticky dots that people had placed on their favorite features of each park. “We’d ultimately like to be able to set up pocket parks downtown and in Smokey Point, and maybe even near businesses like AMT, for their employees.”
The ABC contest gave Arlington and Darrington a total budget of $12,000 to spend on such parks. While Arlington already spent its $6,000 on a portable “pop-up park,” that was on display at the merchants’ parking lot, Lopez explained that the city has applied for tourism grants to cover the costs of a pocket park in the parking lot.
Bryan Terry, IT manager for the city, elaborated that ABC had given Arlington and Darrington a total of $8,000 for their Wi-Fi. Although Arlington’s $4,000 currently provides a modest coverage zone in the city’s downtown, Terry noted that any future expansions of service will be less expensive, because the start-up infrastructure has already been installed.
“This is just a pilot project,” Terry said. “We have hopes of broadening its range with more access points throughout town, but in the meantime, it’s strategically placed in the center of downtown, where our pocket park will be.”
Terry sees free Wi-Fi as a boon to locals and tourists alike, whether they’re kids doing schoolwork, adults looking for jobs or housing, or families checking out what activities and amenities the community has to offer.
“When they first log on, they’ll be redirected to a splash page highlighting the most current events in the area,” Terry said, adding that folks who used the downtown Arlington Wi-Fi that weekend would be redirected to the page for the Arlington Viking Fest, after which they could browse the Internet as they wished. “It lets them know what’s going on locally.”