COLUMBIA — City planners would like to make a full workout available to the public —for free — at Albert-Oakland Park.
Located at 1900 Blue Ridge Road, Albert-Oakland Park has a trail lined with the outdated remains of 18 exercise stations. The stations are instruments of calisthenic resistance: curl-ups, pull-ups, push-ups and stretches. They feature simple designs that rely on wood, metal and, most important, gravity.
But the stations are 30 years old and are splintered, rusted and broken down. Half the curl-up station is shattered. The balance beam creaks under the softest of footsteps. Many stations are unmarked. Station 4 is merely a collection of overgrown railroad ties placed in a square.
Before May, the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department's staff expects to replace Stations 4, 12, 15 and 18, and the city is currently seeking bids from outdoor-exercise equipment companies including Triactive and Little Tikes.
“We started this year with the first phase of the plan,” park services manager Mike Griggs said. “Our goal is to get them in before the spring.”
Outdoor exercise equipment has evolved since the original stations were installed. Griggs and Mike Schneider, city parks planner, have outlined a plan to replace the stations with equipment that mirrors machines found in gyms, which might cost hundreds of dollars to join.
A Dec. 18 report to the City Council shows Triactive equipment as possibilities for the park, including a rowing machine, a chest press and a leg press.
Griggs said Albert-Oakland would be the first park in Columbia — and perhaps in Missouri — to feature such equipment.
Griggs said the improvements will be three-fold: The equipment will provide a healthy exercise outlet, be safer and improve the park's appearance.
Keith Amerson, 35, spends a lot of time at Albert-Oakland Park and was playing disc golf during a light snowfall onSaturday. He agreed with Griggs’ assessment of the benefit of the new exercise stations.
“I’ve seen people use (the old exercise stations) before,” he said. “I think it would improve the appearance of the park, maybe bring some more people out here.”
Griggs worries how the new machines will hold up, especially given that Albert-Oakland will be one of the first parks to experiment with them. Specifically, he worries about vandalism, which is part of the reason the existing stations are in such bad shape.
“You talk to the playground manufacturer, and they say they rotate their wheels (for an exercise bike)two million times with 100 pounds of pressure, but can they survive vandalism?” he said.
Chris Litvinchuk of Triactive in California said vandalism would be no problem with his company’s equipment. He noted that the Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green and the South Central Correctional Center in Licking both have the machines.
"If it's behind the walls of a correctional facility, it has to hold up," Litvinchuk said.
The council has budgeted $4,850 for the new equipment this year, and plans call for another $5,000 in fiscal year 2010. The money comes from the parks sales tax.