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Downtown may become home to outdoor fitness center; new central Lawrence trail may open by April

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I understand what is going on here: Downtown motorists are hoping to get a glimpse of me in Spandex. Well, perhaps that is in store because plans are in the works for downtown Lawrence to have what essentially would be an outdoor workout facility.

The city has applied for a nearly $15,000 grant to build what is called a "Fitness Zone" in South Park. Instead of having playground equipment, a fitness zone has specially built workout equipment that can withstand the elements. I'm talking about devices that mimic an elliptical machine or a bench press or those ab stations that have been known to make a person's midsection feel like a pretzel.

Lawrence's Deerfield Park has had such a fitness zone since June, and Parks and Recreation officials said it has been extremely popular. Parents are able to do a bit of a workout while their children play on the traditional playground equipment nearby. Below, I've posted a few photos I took of the equipment at the Deerfield site. (Sorry, no selfies.)

City officials are considering two locations for the fitness zone in South Park. One would be on the east side of Massachusetts Street. Specifically, it would be in the northeast corner of the park, near the entrance to the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. (That might be good. Perhaps a police officer could lend me a billy club to dissuade the crowds of Spandex admirers.) The other location is on the west side of Massachusetts Street. It would be just south of the existing playground area in the park.

The city is applying for the grant money through the Kansas Health Foundation. My understanding is that the grant doesn't require any matching funds from the city, so local costs are expected to be minimal for the project.

City officials actually were planning to apply for the grant last year, but something odd happened. When the city sought to apply for the grant in September some local nonprofit leaders, including Commissioner Jeremy Farmer, asked the commission to not apply for the grant because they didn't want other local nonprofits having to compete against the city's application for grant funds. Commissioners reluctantly agreed to hold off on the application last year, but no such concerns were raised this time around. Commissioners approved the grant application earlier this week.

The city should find out whether it has won the funds in the next several weeks.

In other news and notes from around town:

• If walking on a good, old-fashioned trail is more your style of outdoor exercise, you'll soon have a new option. Work is underway on the trail that will surround the small lake that is on the property of the former VFW location in the Pinckney neighborhood. As we have reported, the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center wants to donate the lake property to the city for use as a park, which will be named after the late and popular Bert Nash leader Sandra Shaw. John McGrew's group, Outside for a Better Inside, has raised grant money and private funds to build the trail.

Parks and recreation leaders confirmed work has begun on the trail, and could be completed by early April. In addition to the trail, parks and recreation leaders said McGrew has reached out to Westar Energy's community service team, and it looks like the Westar group is going to build a gazebo that would overlook the lake.

Once the trail work is completed, the city will officially take ownership of the property and begin maintaining it as a park. Parks and Recreation leader Ernie Shaw said the city then will start looking at what improvements it may want to make in future years. Among the possibilities, Shaw said, are an enclosed shelter that could be used for receptions and signs that document the history of the area. The site previously was home to a brick plant that produced many of the bricks for the city's streets, and it also served as a private zoo at one point.

If you are confused about where the property is, you will access the site along West Second Street, right behind the city's water treatment plant near Burcham Park. The trail will make a big loop around the back edge of the lake and end up where Maine Street dead ends just north of Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

A shoulder and chest workout machine at Deerfield Park's Fitness Zone.

A shoulder and chest workout machine at Deerfield Park's Fitness Zone. by Chad Lawhorn

A cross-country skiing workout machine at the Deerfield Park Fitness Zone.

A cross-country skiing workout machine at the Deerfield Park Fitness Zone. by Chad Lawhorn

An air-walking workout machine at the Deerfield Park Fitness Zone.

An air-walking workout machine at the Deerfield Park Fitness Zone. by Chad Lawhorn

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  • Comments

    Melinda Henderson 6 months, 1 week ago

    Sweet. Our very own Muscle Beach, just like at Venice Beach. Okay, not really so much.

    0

    Alan Baker 6 months, 1 week ago

    When the city sought to apply for the grant in September some local nonprofit leaders, including Commissioner Jeremy Farmer, asked the commission to not apply for the grant because they didn't want other local nonprofits having to compete against the city's application for grant.

    Which other non-profit leaders asked?

    0

    Eric Ryan 6 months, 1 week ago

    If the point is to put the equipment near the existing playground equipment so parents can exercise while their kids play on the playground, why would they put it on the east side of Mass? Do they want small children to run across a busy street to tell Mom and Dad something? Leave the east side of the park alone - it has more of a traditional green space feel to it than the west side.

    2

    Leslie Swearingen 6 months, 1 week ago

    You know, Eric, I did not think of that, and I am glad that you brought it up. You are right and I hope they take that into consideration.

    0

    Hedley Lamarr 6 months, 1 week ago

    Perhaps this could be moved to Rock Ridge.

    1

    Clark Coan 6 months, 1 week ago

    Wish I could read the whole article...

    0

    Richard Heckler 6 months, 1 week ago

    This type of exercise venue would go well on east 15th street on the Burrough's Creek shared use path. This would be very popular at that location as well. No question about it. Space is available.

    Let's keep all neighborhoods healthy. Use general fund money = excellent use of tax dollars. Donate our money to the park department.

    3

    Betty Bartholomew 6 months ago

    Speaking of park related grants:

    Has the city ever looked into playground canopys/shade structures? (see http://www.aad.org/spot-skin-cancer/what-we-do/shade-structure-grant-program for more info)

    I was at South Park with my daughter and niece one afternoon last September and the equipment was so hot they couldn't really play on it much. There are several playgrounds around town that could use shade structures over the equipment, resulting in more use on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

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