April 17, 2019 | Gerald Vander Pyl
Free outdoor fitness parks offer fun alternative to the gym
Calgary's parks offer something for just about everyone, including people who love to stay fit.
The City currently has 22 parks with permanent outdoor fitness equipment, and a pilot project last summer saw temporary equipment set up in three additional communities on a rotating basis.
The idea was to judge the potential interest for a fitness park before going through with any permanent installation, says Julie Guimond, lead for environmental education with City of Calgary Parks.
Guimond says in addition to having equipment onsite, they offered free fitness classes to show people how to use the equipment and "activate" the park.
"When we build fitness parks, (often) they don't get used,' said Guimond. "People think, 'that's for someone who's really fit' or 'that's for athletes.'
"Research that's been duplicated in other municipalities is that fitness parks need to be activated. It really gives people the feeling of being welcomed."
Guimond says more than 500 people took part in the classes, even though many sessions had to be cancelled in late August and early September due to smoke from forest fires.
She says if budgets permit, the pilot project will return this summer in several other communities, at which time details will be posted online at www.calgary.ca/free
"Approaching your community association is the first step. Then, if they like the idea, they can reach out to the City and then we start the (process)." - John Merriman, City of Calgary Parks
One of the 22 fitness parks already in place is in Valley Ridge, thanks to the efforts of the Valley Ridge Community Association.
Association president Dave McCarrel says the park was the top request in a survey of area residents on what new outdoor facility they would like to see built.
The community association looked at other parks to view equipment, then raised funds through a casino and some grants. The equipment was installed in 2016.
McCarrel says they also offered courses on how to use the facility, for "people who look at it, but don't know what to do."
John Merriman, community strategist with City of Calgary Parks, says anyone who would like to see a fitness park in their area should talk to their community association.
"Approaching your community association is the first step," he said. "Then, if they like the idea, they can reach out to the City and then we start the (process)."
Merriman says the city doesn't keep statistics on usage of the parks, so their popularity is often judged using anecdotal evidence from the local community group.
"Early on, we ask the community association to do their best to clarify what the interest is for adult fitness equipment in their community," he said.
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