Fitness park group making big strides

Gym memberships can be expensive.

Purchasing home fitness equipment even more so.

Residents of the City of Warren, however, may soon have an alternative, free of charge.

Representatives of a coalition of area individuals and businesses hoping to install a fitness park in the City of Warren recently presented Warren City Council with a Powerpoint outlining their vision. After some debate, council gave its blessing to the group to proceed with planning using DeFrees Park as a location.

However, the group didn’t just materialize from the ether, nor is it approaching the planning stages without research and goals.

The project’s genesis, according to Heidi Ekey, who presented the idea to council, lies with Whirley Drink-Works! and discussions amongst its employees.

“A small group of our teammates sat down and talked about where to focus our energy and what kinds of projects could best help the community we love so much,” Ekey recalled. “Part of our goal is to support initiatives that positively impact the quality of life in our local communities, but we wanted to focus on the areas that were most important to us: physical and environmental sustainability.”

Ekey said doing something for Make a Difference Day, a community service project program sponsored by USA Weekend magazine and Points of Light scheduled for Oct. 26, was suggested by Whirley Human Resources Manager Greg Leif.

“We knew we wanted to work within this program and quickly found a project that would give our plan some legs,” Ekey said.

That project was a fitness park and it was found in an article from USA Today.

“After reading that,” Ekey recalled, “we knew that was the project for us.”

From there the group decided to reach out and solicit help from other organization looking to make a difference.

“The project would allow us to connect with other Warren employees, residents and service organizations and would truly be a community effort,” Ekey said. “Make a Difference Day is a national day of community service, held annually on the fourth Saturday in October. Warren has not had a significant presence in this movement. We chose to leverage our resources and establish a group of local employees who cared enough about the community to take time away from their work and their personal life to work on a project.”

That spirit of collaboration is itself a goal, according to Ekey.

“We want to see people working together for the good of the community and themselves,” she noted. “We intend to keep going year after year doing other projects. We don’t know what we’ll do – maybe it’ll be an extension of this project for awhile, but eventually it could be something completely different. The important thing is that we start working together businesses, residents and service organizations to improve our quality of life in Warren County.”

The group’s decision to concentrate on a fitness park wasn’t mere whim either, Ekey said.

“Our wellness is not where it should be. We’re over the state average diabetes and obesity rates,” she noted. “We need more opportunities or fitness for everyone. We need to take advantage of our city parks. There is so much we could do. I think it would even help with the vandalism – because so many people are passionate about this project, they’re going to be there, they’re going to be watching and I believe there is going to be less opportunity for people to act destructively.”

Now that the group has council’s approval, Ekey said it is already moving forward with planning at DeFrees.

“We went to the park the other day and talked with the vendor about different scenarios. We think we have some great ideas,” Ekey said. “We’re getting answer to the questions that have come up with the DeFrees location and the other questions they (council) had during the meeting regarding the fitness equipment supplier – regarding maintenance. We’re putting together a rendering of the park with equipment using DeFrees and beginning the process for grant writing. We are also working very closely with the supplier of the equipment to make sure we have all the information we need.”

According to Ekey, the group has asked Norwell General Manager Tim Madeley and local supplier John Curtiss, of John Curtiss Design to attend when it next approaches council to answer additional questions as well.

The envisioned park, according to Ekey, will consist of individual fitness machines designed with simple parts for outdoor use and durability from Norwell Outdoor Fitness. The machines are high-grade stainless steel and designed to resemble abstract sculpture to provide visual appeal. The group also envision placing poured rubber pathways colored to blend with the park between and under machine stations.

“Almost everything will be maintenance free and what isn’t is very low cost and low maintenance,” Ekey said. “That would be like the rubber foot pads, nuts, bolts, etc. The design is beautiful – Denmark is known for design in general and this equipment is like sculpture.”

The project already has a website, www.WarrenPaFitnessPark.com, and a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/WarrenPaFitnessPark that the public can visit.

“We’d really like people to see these,” Ekey said. “We will update our progress there. We are going to need volunteers for Make a Difference Day – Oct. 26,2013. Prior to that, we do have small groups of people working on different tasks for purposes of fundraising, communication, marketing, site planning and landscape design. We are looking for people to raise awareness within their own company and to help spread the word through a variety of different means.”