Council will review fitness park plans

Modified plans for a fitness park in the City of Warren are set to go before city council for review.

Following a series of meetings with the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission to work out details, a community mobilization initiative group brought plans for a fitness park at Clemons Park before council at its July 15 meeting. After hearing the proposal, council suggested the group rework the proposal using DeFrees park and address a number of council concerns. The modified proposal was presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission on Tuesday.

The group provided preliminary planning schematics, computer-generated photos of what the park could look like, a cost breakdown and bullet-point informational sheets on the equipment for commission review.

City Manager Nancy Freenock pointed out that council had expressed concerns over future maintenance of equipment and liability issues.

“I appreciate that and it is helpful,” Heidi Ekey said on behalf of the group. “We don’t see that as a major issue, raising some additional maintenance funds.”

Ekey noted the fitness equipment is designed to be low maintenance, being made of stainless steel with minimal moving parts utilizing enclosed ball bearings. The ball bearings cost approximately $5 to replace.

City Parks and Recreation Director Mary Ann Nau asked whether the equipment installer can train city staff to perform maintenance. Ekey said she would check with the installer, but did not believe it would be a problem.

Liability issues were a matter of concern, especially in the case of children hurting themselves by climbing on equipment.

Ekey noted the plans were designed so that parents could face the playground and that equipment was generally no higher than some playground items.

“They’re less than some of the platforms on playground equipment,” Mary Hagan Double, another member of the mobilization initiative, noted.

“When you install equipment, there’s a dedicated area around it as a fall zone,” Nau said, referring to equipment spacing. “I would be asking questions about what this equipment has for a fall zone if someone climbs up it.”

Nau noted the city will be soliciting feedback from its insurance carrier to assess liability issues. The facility would not require special insurance such as the skate park does.

Ekey noted pathways and pads under equipment included in the proposal could provide some impact absorption.

The group said it has asked the head of the manufacturer, which is based in Seattle, to come to Warren to address council concerning, amongst other issues, safety and liability concerns.

“We’ve actually asked the manufacturer, the head of Norwell USA, to attend a meeting and he’s doing that,” Hagan Double said.

“Do you have an idea how much (of the park) is left as far as open space?” City Planner David Hildebrandt asked.

“There is a lot of space,” Ekey replied.

Director of Public Works Mike Holtz noted DeFrees park is large enough that the amount of used space when added to existing used space is likely less than 25 percent of the total site.

City staff agreed to get the group figures for total park space and sizes of existing used space so it could calculate a total percentage of used space after project completion.

“I think when council decided to go there (DeFrees), the issue of playing ball there went out the windows,” Commission Chair Dennis Crandall said.

A cost breakdown for installation of the equipment was provided, but Ekey noted the figures did not include costs to install subsurface material for pathways or preparation costs.

The cost breakdown, totaling $54,740, listed $19,653 for poured-in-place rubber, $29,582 for equipment and $5,505 for installation.

For subsurface, Ekey said, there are two options.

The less expensive of the two would be installation of crushed bank run gravel, but it would require a thicker layer of poured rubber, an approximately one and a half inches thick layer. The other option, asphalt, is more expensive, but requires substantially less poured rubber, only needing a thickness of approximately one half inch.

Ekey also noted equipment is anchored in concrete in the ground so that it does not move.

“They have really rigorous requirements for how it’s installed,” she said.

Current plans show a pathway to be installed leading through the pavilion at DeFrees to reach strength equipment.

Members of the Parks and Recreation Commission expressed concern over the route of the pathway. Holtz noted individuals at the park using the restrooms must currently walk through either the pavilion or the grass.

Ekey said they could adjust plans to avoid the pavilion.

Initiative members said they would make suggested adjustments before presenting to council, and the commission gave its blessing to proceed.

Crandall noted the volume of turnout for active events, particularly the Kinzua Country Tango, in the county.

“That’s who this is for,” he said. “If you’re going to get fit and do these things around town, this is a good thing to do.”

The group will address council at its Aug. 19 meeting.