Rec. Bd. Eyes Clemons

A fitness park in Warren is one step closer to reality after the City of Warren Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously approved a recommendation to council in support of the project.

The commission held a special meeting late Tuesday afternoon at the municipal building.

Basically, a fitness park is a free outdoor gym. Exercise equipment which does not require supervision is installed things like a leg press or an air walker, two of the top items on a survey conducted by the group driving the project

Three representatives from Whirley Drinkworks! Heidi Powley, Mary Hagan Double and Barb Babcock attended last week’s meeting to pitch the project, representing an assemblage of local corporations that are in support of the venture.

Hagan Double said the project would be funded through community and corporate donations. “(We) want it open to everyone,” she said, explaining that fitness parks typically have a 10- to 15-year lifespan, are virtually maintenance free and are designed to be ADA compliant.

She noted two specific reasons why Warren needs such a park. “(The) health of our residents,” she said, informing commission members that Warren County has higher obesity and diabetes rates than the state average. She also explained that such a park could assist with “recruitment and retention” for downtown corporations.

“We think (it) would be a great addition to our community,” said Hagan Double. “We think it would fit in with the tourism, as well.”

When the group originally approached the commission, there was discussion about placing the fitness park at Morck Park, on East Street near the bike/hike trail entrance. Tuesday’s meeting saw the potential location of the park shift to Clemons Park, at the corner of Hickory Street and Fourth Avenue.

Clemons was cited as centrally located and provides quick access to downtown employees. The group highlighted those employees and people training for local races as two groups who might specifically use such a place.

“We’re very interested in it,” Commission Chairman Dennis Crandall said. “(We will) help you move ahead as quickly as possible.” Tuesday’s meeting was held in part to be able to make a recommendation that city council can consider at its July 15 meeting.

Crandall asked how much the project could cost.

“If you go for broke, we can spend $90,000,” Babcock said, indicating that the cost of the equipment is between $12,000 and $20,000 and substructures would be needed to secure the devices. The group is also considering a poured rubber base surrounding the devices which could cost “about $25,000 on its own.”

In addition to community and corporate donations that will be utilized to fund the project, Powley said they have met with the Community Foundation of Warren County and were encouraged to prepare grant applications.

A proposed layout of Clemons Park included nine pieces of equipment and the commission pushed back on that proposal, suggesting that the space could be too crowded. Spreading the devices out over multiple parks, particular DeFrees, which is just across the street from Clemons, was discussed.

“We love the idea of expanding into other areas, too,” Powley said.

Crandall said the commission would need to look at some renderings to obtain a true sense for whether the space is too crowded.

Parks and Recreation Director Mary Ann Nau noted that deed restrictions on Clemons Park require that the park be left as natural as it can be.

“I think that Clemons is the best place to start,” Powley said, “if we can expand out in time.”

The commission recommended the project to city council, specifying potential sites as Clemons Park, DeFrees Park and the 400 block of Pennsylvania Ave. W. The recommendation also included a suggestion that the project “meander” downtown through parks.

Council will likely hear the proposal at its July meeting.