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Volunteers Install Fitness Course in Roosevelt Park

GRAND RAPIDS PRESS: Jeff Kanan

About 20 volunteers and parks staff laid woodchips and placed equipment including a large rope climb, push-up bars, a balance beam and other structures at Roosevelt Park on Saturday.

They weren’t building a playground, but were finishing installation of a 12-station fitness course as part of a nationwide health and wellness program.

Project FIT works with community partners to improve the availability of exercise locations and healthy food near schools. The equipment at Roosevelt Park and Martin Luther King Jr. Park, which was completed about four weeks ago, was funded as part of a $1 million grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Volunteers worked from early in the morning into the afternoon during the second day of a two-day installation process to finish construction on the exercise course that’s close to the park’s playground.

“The goal is really that kids and parents of those kids that are learning about this stuff in school can carry that out into the neighborhood as well and work on their fitness goals as part of the neighborhood program,” said Steve Faber, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks director. “To be able to go and work at your outdoor gym is kind of an attraction for people.”

Friends of Grand Rapids supported efforts by volunteers and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan employees, along with the city’s parks and recreation department, for the job.

The project stems from Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, which has worked with students, parents and staff at four city elementary schools to promote healthy lifestyles.

Jay Steffen, Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation director, said he anticipates the equipment will be used by neighborhood residents and students from the nearby Potter’s House School.

“It’s always great to engage the neighborhood in coming out and helping to improve their neighborhood park,” Steffen said.

Pam Chapman, volunteer office administrator with the John M. Burgess Health and Wellness Center, sees the park as a good exercise destination and creates a favorable setup with the equipment being located across from the playground, where adults could bring their kids.

“You need exercise to make sure the kids stay active, especially because a lot of P.E. programs are being taken out of schools,” Chapman said. “Parents will love coming to the park.”

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