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Although it already boasts “high technology and cosmic connectivity” — as director Ed Krupp says — the Griffith Observatory entered the 21st Century last Thursday, when city officials launched a free public Wi-Fi program at the facility.
As part of a partnership between the city, Toyota and Oh, Ranger!, the service is being installed at six sites throughout Los Angeles: Cabrillo Beach, Echo Park Lake, Pershing Square, Reseda Park, Venice Beach and, of course, the Griffith Park landmark.
“If you want to connect to the universe, you go to the observatory. If you want to connect to the world, you get on Wi-Fi, and we thank Toyota for that this morning,” Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, said.
He said the observatory is the greatest place in the world, and noted that it is surrounded by the Angeles National Forest, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, San Bernardino National Forest and Cleveland National Forest.
“What a wonderful place it is, but now you can connect to all those places cause Wi-Fi has come to the Griffith Observatory,” LaBonge said.
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, said the observatory is not just iconic for Los Angeles and the U.S., but for the world. For that reason, he was “so grateful” that Toyota and Oh, Ranger! selected the site.
“This really does add to the experience and — if you will — quality of life and certainly the park experience for folks, because now working parents can actually do work if they need to in a lovely setting with their children at our parks,” O’Farrell said. “We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, and this is one significant step forward to provide free Wi-Fi for our residents in the city of Los Angeles.”
The councilman then took a “selfie” with the speakers and asked his communications director, Tony Arranaga, to upload the photos to his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
The chair of the council’s Innovation, Technology & General Services Committee, Councilman Bob Blumenfield, 3rd District, said he was “excited and inspired” by the launch of the public Wi-Fi service.
“We couldn’t do it without this kind of partnership, and this is a great demonstration of the future of Los Angeles,” he said. “A connected, 21st Century Los Angeles is what we have in the future and it starts here with this project.”
Blumenfield said the service is part of a bigger initiative to connect all of Los Angeles to high-speed Internet access.
“What a better place to start than right here at our parks, where people gather and want to be connected to each other, both physically and virtually,” he added.
Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks general manager Michael Shull said the Wi-Fi will not cover all 4,000 acres of Griffith Park, but it will add to the park experience.
“WiFi just provides an extra amenity, much like a recreation center or swimming pool provides another asset to the community,” he said.
Shull said the department has created a mobile website — m.laparks.org — that allows visitors to notify park staffers of hazards, trees in need of trimming, things that need to be cleaned and any other issue that may require their attention. Users can also submit photos.
“It doesn’t go to a black hole. It goes directly to the maintenance staff in that district,” Shull said.
He introduced Ruby, a park visitor from Norwalk who attends D.D. Johnston Elementary School. She was pleased that the partnership had led to free Wi-Fi at the park.
“It is a great idea for parks and recreation to provide us with Internet access for students and people to use in the park and do projects,” Ruby said.
Mark Saferstein, the publisher and editor-in-chief for the American Park Network and OhRanger.com, said his company strives to connect people with nature and he hopes the Wi-Fi service will complement that goal.
“This is hopefully the first of many steps, and our role is to just act as an intermediary,” he said.
Saferstein added that the service will be present in the areas surrounding the Griffith Observatory. He said signs will be posted in the six participating areas to notify patrons of where the service is available.
True to form, LaBonge interacted with some nearby tourists and asked them to try out the service. A couple from Brazil, Luciane Potter and Diego Casagrande, said it worked great.
“I’d like to thank [the partners] because without this free Wi-Fi we wouldn’t [be] able to be live to Brazil,” Casagrande said.
Saferstein said the company is interested in receiving feedback about the service. To contact American Park Network and Oh, Ranger!, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
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