Free WiFi available to the public at Summit Lake

October 3, 2017
By Bob Downing

Something new has come to Akron’s Summit Lake Community Center: free public wireless internet service.

It started about Sept. 1, thanks to the Akron Civic Commons.

The only thing missing are signs to inform the public of the available service, officials said.

Officially, the Akron Civic Commons provided a $6,000 micro-grant grant to the non-profit group, Students With a Goal, to provide the wi-fi service at Summit Lake for two years, said SWAG executive director Eric Nelson.

“What’s been put together is really amazing,” he said.

The internet access is available 24 hours a day in the center and in the surrounding area in the park and in the parking lots. It does not extend as far as nearby apartments or houses.

That makes Summit Lake one of the first Akron parks to offer free wi-fi service to residents, city spokesman Audley McGill told the Sept. 21 meeting of the Summit Lake Neighborhood Association that drew about 30 people.

The public is welcome to use the wi-fi service by coming into the center or using it outdoors in the area around the center, he said.

The service will also be available to hundreds of school-age children at the center in city-run programs, Summit Metro Park programs and Students With a Goal programs that have recently moved into the center, he said.

City programs cover kindergarten through 12th grade, the park district involves youngsters in kindergarten through fifth grade and SWAG involves youngsters in grades 6 through 12.

Earlier Summit Lake had gotten free wi-fi for three years, thanks to NBA basketball star LeBron James. The city continued that service for a time. But Summit Lake has not had public wi-fi for several years, McGilll said. It was one of the Summit Lake community’s biggest needs, according to those participating in scoping meetings earlier this year at Summit Lake, he said.

Nelson said public wi-fi access ranked pretty high on public surveys of community needs at Summit Lake and it took some time to put together the best possible plan for providing the service. The service covers about 300 square feet in the Summit Lake Community Center and extends down to Summit Lake’s east shoreline and into the center’s parking lots.

The groups is also talking to the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority about possibly extending the service beyond the Summit Lake center. Nelson said his group and community partners are already seeking new sources of money to be able to continue the wi-fi service after the two-year grant ends. The concern is finding the money to keep such programs sustainable into the future because there is “a history of great programs coming to Summit Lake and then leaving Summit Lake,” he said.

Nelson and the group sees themselves as the community steward for the public Internet service through Spectrum. He said access is easy. Go to SLCCSWAGGuest and type in the password: 12345678.

Providing such a needed service to residents in the Summit Lake community is “a way to bring people together,” Nelson said. His group has earlier gotten an Akron Civic Common grant to fund an 11-week summer photography program for teens.

In other action, the Summit Lake Neighborhood Association is looking at starting a community-based economic development unit. It would seek outside grants to benefit a block in the neighborhood and would work with Akron city officials and agencies including AMHA to benefit the Summit Lake neighborhood, McGill said. That might include fixing up housing, beautifying the area and developing jobs.

That unit is eying an area on Crosier/Lakeshore for the first project, but other suggestions will be considered. The deadline is Oct. 10. The goal is to “make the community better,” McGill said.

Daniel Rice, president and CEO of the Akron-based Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, told those at the meeting that the environmental review of Summit Lake itself is not yet complete but should be released this fall.

He also said officials are discussing perhaps developing a master plan to develop the lake and surrounding areas. Some have suggested running a hike-bike trail around the 100-acre lake off the Towpath Trail, but no decisions have been made.