Q: Hi, I read recently about proposed updates to Hiniker Park that included outdoor fitness equipment. I live near Highland Park and MSU where there are trails that have this type of equipment and I rarely (to never) see any adults using it, though my children think it’s fun to climb on (and a bit dangerous). I exercise regularly and most of the equipment is so obscure that I would never use it. Has the city considered this as they update parks? It seems the money could be used on trails or other park upgrades that people actually utilize instead. Wondering if this is just trendy?
A: Mankato City Manager Susan Arntz actually addressed that issue when discussing the planned park upgrades at Hiniker Pond Park, although that part of the interview wasn’t included in the stories in The Free Press.
Arntz said it’s crucial that public exercise equipment include clear instructions, using visual images, demonstrating how the gear is meant to be used. She also emphasized that the equipment needs to be designed so that it can used by people of all ages and fitness levels.
As for whether it’s a trend to put fitness equipment in public parks, yes it is. Arntz mentioned that Bloomington has the fitness gear in several of its parks. In Mankato, workout stations were added to Highland Park last year after first coming to Sibley Park eight years ago. Adding a fitness course to Riverfront Park is also under consideration.
The goal is to give people the opportunity for a full-body workout even if they can’t afford a gym membership.
The Sibley Park equipment includes a cardio stepper, squat press, Tai-chi wheels, a chest backpress, and an ab crunch and leg lift.
Ask Us Guy, who would definitely need clear instructions on how to do any of those things, has another suggestion for getting people to use the gear more: Don’t put it where there’s lots of people, his theory being that shy Minnesotans don’t want a bunch of spectators watching as they struggle through a workout routine.
For instance, at Sibley Park the exercise gear is between a picnic shelter and the extremely popular farm-theme playground. There’s no way Ask Us Guy is going to be able to concentrate on his squat presses and ab crunches if little kids are constantly wandering over from the playground, asking questions like, “Mister, why is your face red like a tomato?” or “Mom, is that man having a stroke?”
So, yeah, city workers should move the machines to the most isolated spot they can find in each park.
Q: The state of Minnesota is planning on rebuilding Highway 22 through Wells. Why isn’t there an option to build a bypass around the town?
A: Looks like there are two main reasons for not considering a bypass around the Faribault County town of 2,336.
First, it’s expensive to build a brand-new road. A bypass around the west side of Wells would need to be at least 5.5 miles long to provide connections from Highway 22 north of the town to Highway 22 on the south side and to Highway 109 on the southeast, which means acquiring a lot of privately owned farmland even before the construction costs are added in.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation considers building bypasses from time to time but only when the through-city route becomes unacceptably congested.
“While MnDOT is in the process of determining the scope of the project, we don’t anticipate a bypass of Wells being a viable option as there aren’t existing mobility or capacity issues along the corridor,” said Anne Wolff, a public engagement coordinator for MnDOT. “If we were to see significant congestion and delay, then a benefit-cost analysis would determine if a bypass were warranted.”
(While Wolff didn’t mention it, it seems unlikely there will be big increases in traffic in Wells, which has declined in population since 1960 when 2,897 people lived there.)
Secondly, building a bypass of Wells wouldn’t solve the problem of the deteriorating condition of Highway 22, which is the main north-south street through the town. MnDOT is planning to spend as much as $13.8 million to reconstruct the highway, also known as Second Avenue. There will be new pavement, new utilities, possible trails or other pedestrian upgrades, and — if Wells residents want it — aesthetic improvements such as landscaping and decorative street lighting.
“MnDOT recently gathered feedback from the community on issues and opportunities throughout the project corridor,” Wolff said. “We’ll combine that community input with the engineering and environmental data to determine the purpose and scope of the project.”
People interested in staying informed about the project can sign up for email updates at mndot.gov/d7/projects/hwy22wells/.
Contact Ask Us at The Free Press, P.O Box 3287, Mankato, MN 56002. Call Mark Fischenich at 344-6321 or email your question to m[email protected]; put Ask Us in the subject line.
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