Outdoor fitness area underway for community use

Eau Claire Parks, Recreation, and Forestry work to improve community health

More stories from Colette St John

Old stomping grounds
September 17, 2015

Photo by Colette St. John

October is the projected completion of the fitness zone in Owen Park, open to the public at no charge.

The trails along the Chippewa River already provide a stretch of pavement for students to go out and get some cardio, but starting in the middle of October, they’ll have a place for strength training too.

Eau Claire Parks, Recreation and Forestry began constructing an outdoor fitness zone at Owen Park at the beginning of the summer and the final product will be free and open to the public. Finances for the new facility are through a donation and partnership with Mayo Clinic Health Systems.

The fitness zone will include nine stations near Owen Park, including both muscular and cardiovascular equipment — users will have access to a sit up and chin up station, recumbent bike and more.

Todd Chwala, the superintendent of Parks, Forestry and Cemeteries, said this will work to improve the physical health of the community.

“The outdoor fitness equipment will address an important community health need,” Chwala said, “providing both preventative and therapeutic solutions to chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.”

Parks, Recreation and Forestry conducted a lot of research to decide where to place the fitness zone, Chwala said. The department attended trade shows in order to understand where the best location would be and eventually decided on Owen Park.

Chwala said Owen Park has approximately 130,000 users every year, and its location is close to both downtown and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Superintendent of Recreation, Dawn Comte, said there’s a long-term strategy for the outdoor fitness zone after equipment is installed and open to the community. If equipment use is successful, she said, they could look at putting similar facilities around Eau Claire.

Along with targeting students around campus, the fitness zone also looks to parents.

“We put it next to a playground thinking that maybe as parents bring their kids to the playground, there is something for them to do as well,” Comte said.

Nichole Ullom, a junior accounting major, said she is an active student outside of the classroom. When learning of the outdoor fitness zone, she expressed excitement in using the free equipment.

“Being a college student, I don’t always buy gym memberships because of the price and I am always looking for different workout opportunities,” Ullom said.

For students with busy schedules and a hole in their wallet, the fitness zone may be a great option. Some students may find it creates an easy way to stay active without having to  money.

“I would definitely take advantage of free workout equipment at Owen Park,” Ullom said. “Owen Park is a great location where people are already active and it will be great to see different workout options.”