STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — Eleven-year-old Nathan Jowers didn’t hesitate when answering why he wanted to attend Westside Connection, a fun gathering at Westside Park on Aug. 9.
It wasn’t for the free Chick-fil-A or Bahama Bucks shaved ice. Not the tunes played by Elevate Church or the bounce house or even the door prizes.
“The Wi-Fi!” he exclaimed in between watching his favorite YouTube videos on a smartphone as he ate his dinner.
Jowers immediately took advantage of the newest addition at the park, located at 1617 Second St.
Even though his family has a wireless internet connection at home, the Marble Falls Middle School sixth-grader was eager to use the free service at the park.
“Everywhere, you need Wi-Fi,” he said.
Monique Breaux, a member of the city of Marble Falls’s Community Engagement Initiative and representing the Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments, said city leaders believed adding free Wi-Fi to Westside Park would be an invaluable service for park-goers, especially to the youngest residents.
She noted that Marble Falls Independent School District distributes tablets and laptops to students to do their homework. If they don’t have Wi-Fi at home, most go to places that offer it for free, and city leaders wanted to give students another option. And, if adults who bring their children, grandchildren, or dogs to the park happen to use the service, that’s great, too, she added.
“They need to be somewhere to be able to connect,” Breaux said. “We want to give them a place to safely connect so they’ll be able to do homework, read books, and are able to move through their academics. And why not at a park, a place where we promote recreation?”
City leaders purposely made connecting easy. Simply go to settings on your electronic device and click on “Marble Falls Public WiFi.” No password is required, and the service is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day. However, all city parks are closed from midnight to 5 a.m. each day.
Breaux noted people love their parks because it represents a day of fun. At Westside Park, that might be playing basketball on the outdoor court, using the barbecue pits for a meal, watching their kids enjoy the playground, playing 18 holes of disc golf, or letting their dogs explore Ruff Park.
Now, they have the added convenience of free Wi-Fi, which opens up more opportunities such as browsing websites, engaging on social media, reading eBooks, or even working.
“You can go outside and observe nature and observe your friends,” she said.
City leaders plan to add free Wi-Fi at Johnson Park in the future. Lakeside Park has it in certain parts because of Lakeside Pavilion, and city leaders will examine that system, too, she added.
Because Breaux works directly with residents as a member of the Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments, she has heard firsthand the requests for Wi-Fi in the parks. Now that it’s at Westside Park, she is anticipating seeing more people with their devices along with their hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
“We’re hoping they’ll utilize the service being provided by the city,” she said.