In this study, we explore the performance of simple visible-wavelength eye-safe lidar system as a means to address near-field calibration issues for MPLs and as a low-cost stand-alone lidar system for entry-level research participants interested in lower troposphere studies. Modeling studies and measurements indicate that visible-wavelength eye-safe transmitter with a wide field-of-view (WFOV) receiver are capable of yielding useful measurements in the planetary boundary layer while simultaneously eliminating key near-field calibration problems. Results will be presented using an example portable WFOV receiver with eye-safe transmission energies to illustrate daytime and nighttime performance over a range of atmospheric conditions. Data collected to date demonstrate the ability to capture boundary layer heights and mixing dynamics, even during daytime when solar background levels are high. Representative measurements will be presented for different aerosol loading conditions, along with a discussion on expected performance, and example data products that can be obtained. The instrument development is intended to result in a public-domain device, with emphasis on a modular design using commercial off-the-shelf components, interchangeable sub-components, and ease of assembly. The ideal prototype system would be based on several factors to make it desirable for long-term use in a lidar network setting. All aspects of the system, including components list, software, assembly and alignment procedures would be publicly available to research groups to replicate the system. The goal would be to enable university groups that do not have expertise in lidar systems or cannot afford to purchase a full-cost commercial lidar to participate in network activities with a standardized instrument, enabling a broader scale of networking activity for the community at-large. Interested groups are invited to participate in this effort and help with the development, test and evaluation, networking, data analysis, and education aspects of this effort.