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Fitness Zones Bring Low-Cost Activity to LA

There’s a nice story by public radio station KPCC in Los Angeles on “Fitness Zones” being built in the city’s parks. TPL has been working with the city to bring exercise equipment that is simple, durable and still attractive to use for exercising.

The article touches on how they could be of some help in addressing obesity:

“We’ve placed (the fitness zones) in places of high need where we have a big population of residents who are obese and who have diabetes and hypertension,” [Pascaline] Derrick said.

The Trust for Public Land’s consideration of South Los Angeles proves a great resource for the area, said Perry.

“We are battling disproportionate statistics on obesity,” Perry said. “But this is an opportunity for South L.A. to address these issues in an upbeat and positive way and as a family.”

And an affordable one in low-income areas. A gym membership can run from $30 per month on the very low end to normally $60 or more. Many people either cannot afford or are not willing to pay for one, so creating public facilities that address these needs can be key to rising residents’ level of physical activity.

In economic terms, assuming access to exercise facilities runs at about $4 per use, that’s $400 in daily benefits for every 100 people.

More on Fitness Zones, and a video from the story below:

Sculpture Park Energizes Des Moines

Pappajohn Sculpture Park (Photo: Des Moines Art Center)

A new sculpture park on the outskirts of downtown Des Moines is changing the face of this Iowa city. The New York Times ran a story in their Real Estate section on Des Moines, making substantial mention of the park:

At the center of the Western Gateway neighborhood is a 4.4-acre public park and sculpture garden, with 24 works by Ugo Rondinone, Louise Bourgeois and Deborah Butterfield, among others. The sculptures, valued at some $40 million, were a gift from John and Mary Pappajohn, two local art collectors and benefactors. Jeff Fleming, the director of the Des Moines Art Center, played a central role in grouping the sculptures into “rooms” flanked by an undulating landscape of berms, trees, walkways and grass that was paid for by the city and private donors.

Among the businesses that have settled near the sculpture park is the Des Moines Social Club, a combination art gallery, theater, bar and education center that has enlivened the city’s night life. It is run by Zachary Mannheimer, a theater producer and director from New York who moved to Des Moines after visiting some 20 cities to find a building suitable for his multifaceted entertainment concept. Mr. Mannheimer leases a 30,000-square-foot building on Locust Street that was built in 1919 and operated as a Cadillac dealership. He is trying to raise $4 million to buy and renovate the structure. “We serve as a public house for those who have explored the park and then wish to discuss the work,” Mr. Mannheimer said.

Like almost everything else connected to downtown construction, the park displaying the Pappajohns’ donation was built with unusual speed, about two and a half years from conception to completion. “It’s a wonderful example of what this city can do,” said Mr. Southwell, the Wellmark executive. “The park has been a real magnet. It’s much more popular than what people originally thought it might be.”

That’s a business executive talking. Again we’re learning about another park that has enticed development and cultivation of the arts, not to mention a space that will draw tourists in a city not known for its drawing of visitors. (A previous Times travel section article headlined that “a sculpture garden energizes Des Moines.”) And this is another example of a city creating a central and signature park for public art. The Des Moines Register also has a series of videos and pictures showing the development of the park and interviews with the Pappajohns.

Some news from around….

  • Debate continues on role of condos in Brooklyn Bridge Park. (NY Times City Room)
  • Colorful, modern sculptures planned for New York Ave. medians near the White House in DC. (Washington Post)
  • Philadelphia portion of East Coast Greenway getting funding from stimulus TIGER grants. (Philly.com) Some funding tied to plans for high-speed rail in another segment. (WashCycle)
  • Comparison of materials used in city sidewalks. (Infrastructurist)
  • Selling parkland because of a shrinking budget in Tulsa. (NewsOn6)

Plastic Bag Fee for Baltimore?

The Baltimore Sun has come out in favor of imposing a plastic bag fee there similar to the one recently imposed in Washington, D.C.

The Sun recommends that a 5-cent fee “should be seen as an investment in a cleaner, greener Baltimore, not just another revenue stream for the city’s general fund.” It recommends that the council “earmark the proceeds for the kinds of environmental enhancements people can appreciate, such as cleaning up the city’s waterways, planting trees or upgrading parks and bike trails.”

The city once had a dedicated fee for parks. In 1860, the city imposed a trolley fare tax that generated millions of dollars for the city’s greenspaces for 80 years.

While these fees are very different from one another, it does show that there is a history of establishing dedicated funding for the environment in Baltimore.

(It would be interesting to look at plastic bag usage compared to transit usage.  Many Baltimore residents may actually use more plastic bags than they do public transit.)

First Lady to Governors: Act on Childhood Obesity

First Lady Michelle Obama urged the nation’s governors to act against childhood obesity in an address to the National Governor’s Association this past weekend, mentioning parks and playgrounds as one area where leaders can make a difference. Obama recently announced the Let’s Move initiative and a new presidential task force to come up with policy ideas.

The First Lady:

But we have to be honest with ourselves: Our kids didn’t do this to themselves. Our kids didn’t decide whether there’s time for recess or gym class, or our kids don’t decide what’s served to them in the school cafeteria. Our kids don’t decide whether to build playgrounds and parks in their neighborhoods or whether to bring supermarkets and farmer’s markets to their communities. We set those priorities. We make those decisions. And even if it doesn’t feel like we’re in charge, we are.

Obama urged action, saying “Let’s stop wringing our hands and talking about it and citing statistics. Let’s act. Let’s move. Let’s give our kids the future they deserve.”

We can think of a few ways states can increase the presence or quality of parks in communities. In California, the Housing Related Parks Program rewards communities that build affordable housing with funding for community parks. In Massachusetts, the state enabled local communities to dedicate funds for parks and other things like housing through the Community Preservation Act. In Colorado, the state dedicates lottery proceeds to its Great Outdoors Colorado program that helps build parks and trails in cities. And in Minnesota, legislators placed a constitutional amendment on the ballot (that passed comfortably) to increase the sales tax for parks and the arts, and the state-run Metropolitan Council also funds regional parks in the Twin Cities metro area.

These are just a few programs that come to mind and there are many others, not to mention state efforts to encourage smart growth and an urban form that doesn’t deplete physical activity. States can play a major role in fighting childhood obesity, and as a part of this, a role in creating excellent park systems in their cities.