Officials with the Knox County Parks and Recreation Department are another step closer to offering improved cellular service and improved internet to visitors at Ouabache Trails Park.
Superintendent Rama Sobhani said following a meeting of the parks board this week, the organization is officially moving forward with the purchase of a used cell tower, one that will be outfitted with the technology necessary to connect to the county’s existing Wi-Fi infrastructure miles away.
Internet access — as well as the availability of cellular data — has been a point of contention amongst county elected officials for years. It’s difficult to get a cell phone signal anywhere in the park, and internet access, while there, could certainly be better, Sobhani has said.
The county commissioners this year budgeted about $60,000 to increase internet access inside the park, and Sobhani said the ticket to doing that will be the erection of a large tower.
They were going to purchase a new one, but this week the purchase of a used 100-foot tower — one that can be disassembled, brought to the park and reassembled — was purchased by the parks department.
“The first invoice has been paid,” Sobhani said. “We’re just waiting for the parts to arrive.”
Sobhani said they will erect the tower behind the park’s existing maintenance shop, and he expects it to be a “fairly quick process” once all the pieces arrive from Lawrenceville, Illinois.
Among the additional purchases, however, will need to be an additional 80-foot tower that will be added to it to give the structure enough height to reach the county’s existing Wi-Fi infrastructure across town. Sobhani is hoping to have it all done within a couple of months.
“And this is going to be so much better for everybody,” he said of the park’s ability to offer better internet service, especially since the park is looking to offer more web-based booking services. Sobhani said Ouabache Trails Park is also down a total of five camping spots — three RV spots and two tent spots — following additional erosion there caused by spring rains.
The camping area, part of which sits on the side of a steep hill, suffered a large sink hole during recent heavy rains.
It’s a problem that has plagued parks officials for years, and this most recent damage is significant, Sobhani said.
He reported to the board this week that he brought in two contractors to offer quotes on making the necessary repairs, and both agree it’s a “substantial problem.”
Sobhani said he doesn’t have bids in hand just yet, but he is expecting the cost to be great.
“But we are making some progress,” he said. “At least we’ve had some eyes on it.
“We’d like to get it done as quickly as possible, but given how covered up (contractors) are right now, it may not be for awhile,” he continued. “That, and everyone agrees it will be a difficult spot to get equipment back to. It’s a difficult job all the way around.”
All of those camping spots, he added, are not “choice spots” and are typically only used for overruns or in the event of an emergency.
Not having them available to campers, at least not for awhile, will not negatively affect the park’s revenues.
“We haven’t lost any prime real estate,” he said.
Sobhani, too, invited the public to come help pick up trash at the park today as part of Burkhart Insurance Agency’s annual City-Wide Cleanup. Crews will meet at the park’s main office at 9 a.m.
Everyone is welcome.