published Monday, September 1st, 2014

Chattanooga building three fitness parks in the inner city

Three of Chattanooga’s youth and family development centers will be getting outdoor fitness equipment as part of a local plan aimed at helping residents with little access to gyms get in shape and reduce their risk of obesity-related diseases.

As part of a national push by the Trust for Public Land and Chattanooga-based playground equipment maker PlayCore, local public land affiliates are teaming up with Chattanooga to donate $250,000 for outdoor exercise equipment at three inner-city centers.

“We’re really excited,” said Greta Hayes, the city’s director of recreation. “Our vision is to expand into the community at the youth and family development centers to eliminate any barriers like time, transportation and offer access in the inner-city communities.”

The three centers — Carver, South Chattanooga and East Lake — were chosen through a detailed analysis of obese teens in the community and the likelihood of overweight adults, heart disease, diabetes and other related diseases, said Rick Wood, state director of the Trust for Public Land.

At least eight of the city’s 17 centers were identified as having a very high need for fitness centers to encourage weight loss and improve health.

East Lake was determined to be among the highest-need facilities, but its dilapidated, decades-old playground doesn’t meet current codes. The stainless steel play structures are unsafe and in the summer the temperatures of the bars hit 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, Hayes said.

While city officials have begun a six-month study across the city to evaluate which centers are in need of playground, building and equipment improvements, officials decided to go ahead and replace the East Lake center playground to coincide with the new fitness center.

The new playground will cost $170,000, half the retail cost, from GameTime, a PlayCore company. If the City Council approves the purchase and agreement with Trust for Public Land, construction is expected to start in the next week.

Each outdoor fitness area will include stationary bicycles, elliptical machines, chin-up bars and leg presses, and anyone 13 and older can use the equipment.

East Lake Neighborhood Association President Linda Richards said she hopes the new equipment will help raise awareness of obesity and its consequences. As for the playground equipment, she said kids consistently play on the old, outdated slides and bars.

“We have some of the oldest playground equipment in the city,” she said. “We think it’s time to get that upgrade.”

Wood said other cities that have built outdoor fitness centers have seen more people using city parks for activities. It encourages parents who bring their kids to the park to work out at the same time.

“It’s a great investment in quality of life. We think they’ll be a hit,” he said.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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