Fitness Takes a Hike
In 2012, after a generous Blandford-Blenheim Township benefactor donated six acres of land, adjacent to the existing 13-acre Princeton Memorial Park in this Ontario township, community members saw an opportunity to create an experience beyond the routine walk in the park. Years of committee meetings, discussions and planning yielded an idea worth running with: the area's first outdoor fitness facility. Now, visitors can get a full-body workout before, after or while they are enjoying a stroll around the picturesque new trail in a natural setting which includes trees, a recreational hill, wetlands, and a tree nursery. Plans are also in the works for a pavilion and a gathering area with a donor wall.
When the land was originally donated to the township, the only directive was that it be used for a park expansion. This "blank slate" approach spurred representatives from all over the community to join together to form the Princeton Park Expansion Committee, which ultimately decided to turn the expanded space into a large trail. Utilizing the existing perimeter trail as a jumping-off point, committee members saw the opportunity to blend the 1.3 kilometers of new trail ground with the current trail that circles the 13-acre park through landscaping, pavement design and the careful selection of park furniture.
Having previously worked with Paris Site Furnishings to install benches throughout Princeton Park, committee members again turned to their neighbor for assistance in selecting outdoor fitness equipment. Paris Site Furnishings offered a full catalog of outdoor exercise equipment to choose from, offering users the ability to work on cardio, strength, or flexibility. This was important to the committee because they wanted to entice both amateurs and fitness enthusiasts—individuals across all areas of the fitness spectrum—to the park.
In choosing the equipment, special care was given to select materials that would provide safe workouts for patrons who visited both seldom and regularly. Equipment needed to be simple enough for first-time users while diverse enough to capture the attention of exercise enthusiasts. Committee members solicited gym regulars and kinesiology professionals alike to review the options. A mix-and-match approach to equipment selection allows for a flexible, "build-your-own" workout experience.
In designing the trail, committee members chose a spread-out approach, clustering fitness equipment into three pods along the trail. Each pod has three pieces of exercise equipment and allows users to create their own workout, starting with their upper or lower body. They also offer cardiovascular workouts, strength and flexibility training.
Entering from the north end of the park leads patrons to the first pod, complete with a rowing machine, cross-county skier and stair climber. This trio allows users to strengthen their upper back, lower back shoulders, biceps and forearms while rowing, then develop quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, lower back and abs on the cross-country skier or the stair climber.
From here, visitors can traverse approximately a quarter mile to the second pod, which contains jump bars, leg extension and a Roller Fit 4-in-1. This station allows visitors to work on their whole body through a leg press, lat pull, chest press and arm curl.
Committee members wanted to make sure the park was inclusive, and designed the third pod to be wheelchair accessible. A modified double hand bike and pull-up bar were created for this station.
Peggy Crosby, of the Princeton Park Expansion Committee explained, "Paris was able to put two outdoor fitness activities into one machine—we have the double hand bike so that someone in a wheelchair can park right underneath it and move their arms forward or backward by grabbing onto these handles and a pull-up bar, so when they are sitting underneath the pull-up bar they can pull themselves up off the chair."
The third pod also offers two parallel bars and a pull-up dip station that allows participants to "strengthen chest, shoulders and upper- and mid-abdominal and triceps."
Participants can walk the trail from any direction to start and end their workout as they please. No matter how a patron enters the park—north, south or the through the middle—they will leave with a total-body workout.
Quickly recognizing that investments would be needed to turn the land into a family-safe trail, Crosby along with additional community members started the Princeton Legacy Park Committee to raise funds for park expansion. According to Crosby, the Princeton Legacy Park Committee had only one objective: "All we do is fund-raise."
They report how much funding has been raised to the park expansion committee, and work with them and the township to allocate funds. As a group, Crosby said, "we as a committee want to keep things local."
One concern was the practicality of scheduling and installing benches and outdoor fitness equipment when the park committee was made up completely of volunteers. "We're all volunteers and everything takes time," Crosby said about the experience.
With final equipment tune-ups wrapping up, the expanded park is just starting to catch on. Expansion Committee members are already seeing the park benefits, through one resident "who goes there every day to use the exercise equipment, and she really enjoys it!"
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