by Eric Hagen
The city of Andover is contemplating adding directional signs and informational kiosks as well as fitness equipment along an existing park trail.
The Tom Anderson trail, named after a former park and recreation commissioner, goes along part of Hanson Boulevard and into Coon Creek Park before getting to Bunker Hills Regional Park. Assistant City Engineer Todd Haas said it is one of the most used trails in Andover likely because of its connection to Bunker Hills.
While the signs and kiosks would give the public a broader scope of the Tom Anderson Trail and perhaps other trails in the city, the fitness stations would give walkers and bikers an opportunity to do a pull-up, a push-up, a rowing motion and much more on different pieces of equipment placed along the trail.
Mayor Mike Gamache said these fitness stations could be “an added amenity to the trail system.”
“It will be one more added amenity geared more toward adults,” said Councilmember Sheri Bukkila.
During a series of discussions, the council acknowledged that most of the city’s park amenities are geared for children and there was a desire to provide more options for adults, she said.
The Andover Park and Recreation Commission will hold a public hearing March 15, starting at 7 p.m., at Andover City Hall to see what residents think of the project, which could cost anywhere from $35,000 to $40,000, according to Haas. This cost projection includes five fitness stations with two pieces of equipment at each station, 11 directional signs and two kiosks.
While directional signs showing mileage to key points and kiosks displaying maps and environmental facts are not uncommon in the area, it does not appear that outdoor fitness equipment stations are as common.
Harlan Lehman, vice president of Minnesota/Wisconsin Playground, said fitness stations were popular in the 1970s, but mostly on the east and west costs.
Tim Mead, an assistant professor at the University of St. Thomas in the department of health and human performance, worked at Nicholls State University in Louisiana for 15 years before coming to Minnesota a year ago. Mead has received grants of $400,000 to construct trails around Nicholls State University, but none had any fitness stations. A park adjacent to the university had a half-mile path with some fitness stations.
“Nobody ever used them,” Mead said.
They were poor quality and worn down by being exposed to the elements, he said.
Mead now lives in Woodbury and bikes to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. He has not seen fitness stations in Woodbury or along his biking route.
If he were asked, he would tell anyone considering fitness stations to not build them and instead widen the trails, Mead said.
According to Jennifer Fink, marketing and visitor services manager for Anoka County Parks and Recreation Department, staff in the county parks department have had internal discussions about utilizing this type of equipment. She is aware that the city of Eagan has some fitness stations located near its community center, Fink said.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm among staff about implementing this when we do redevelopment in some parks, along heavily used trails,” she said. “It would be the perfect place to stop and do some cross training, while out for a long walk or a run, or watching their children play at the kids playground. But as of right now, we have no definite plans to purchase and install equipment like this.”
Bukkila said with adults getting into circuit training with pilates and kettlebells, for example, she could envision people using the equipment that are going by it.
She believes the Tom Anderson Trail will be used more once people are aware of the amenities, assuming this project happens, and said the trail is in a good location in the community.
The Andover City Council authorized the city to apply for a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) grant.
Haas said the city could not receive any DNR money for the trail improvements along Hanson Boulevard because the grant would only be for portions in park property.
The DNR grant could possibly fund about half of the project costs in eligible areas, while the city costs would come from park dedication fees paid by housing, commercial and industrial developers. The city public works crew could do the installation. Andover would be responsible for maintenance like it is for any other park or trail.
The city of Buffalo added six fitness stations in Sturges Park about three years ago, according to Buffalo Parks and Recreation Director Lee Ryan.
He has heard no negative feedback from residents about the equipment, but he is not sure how popular they are, Ryan said.
Ryan has never seen anyone doing any “hardcore workouts” on the equipment and said it would likely be used more by people who happened to be walking by.
Park and recreation commission members Mark Miskowiec and Shaun Van Vark indicated during the March 1 commission meeting that they would rather see more fitness equipment than directional signs.
Van Vark believes most people using the trail would generally know how far major landmarks like the Andover YMCA/Community Center and business centers are located.
According to Haas, people running or walking with pedometers may like to know how far these major landmarks are before heading in that direction.
Ted Butler, chairperson of the park and recreation commission, said signs and the kiosks can let people know where other trails they are not aware of are located in Andover.
Where the equipment is placed would be an important discussion point should the city ultimately move forward with this project, he said.
“I can envision some people, maybe most people, not really wanting to put their workout on exhibit along Bunker Lake Boulevard,” Butler said.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]