WILLMAR – The city of Willmar was successful in obtaining a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota National Fitness Campaign grant in the amount of $70,000 to build an outdoor fitness track.
City Administrator Leslie Valiant informed the Willmar City Council of the grant award at Monday’s City Council meeting.
The resolution authorizing city administration to accept the grant was approved in a split 5-2 vote, with council members Julie Asmus, Vicki Davis, Audrey Nelsen, Rick Fagerlie and Carl Shuldes voting in favor of the resolution and council members Tom Butterfield and Michael O’Brien contrast. Councilor Justin Ask was absent from the meeting.
The board also approved applying for an age-friendly Minnesota community grant for up to $99,000 in a split 5-2 vote, with Butterfield and O’Brien opposed and Asmus, Davis, Nelsen, Fagerlie and Shuldes in favor.
The age-friendly grant is offered by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and does not require matching funds from the city, according to Valiant.
Willmar is the first city in Minnesota to receive the grant to build an outdoor fitness track, which will be located in Sperry Park because of its visibility and connection to the city’s trails.
The fitness track will include a 38-by-38-foot square section with seven different stations for various activities and a 38-by-38-foot square section that is a fitness studio/yoga-type surface for various open activities. It will be built on a concrete slab with a rubber surface, according to Valiant.
“I think it’s a good idea; as a young mother, I would have loved it,” Davis said. “I would have loved to take my kids to the park and could — even use the equipment with the kids.”
The National Fitness Campaign includes digital programming for adults of all ages and abilities to access workouts, challenges and training tools nationwide.
“The city was chosen because of what we’ve done in the past,” Valiant said, noting that some of the attributes that helped the city secure the grant were its diverse population, the trails and park system it has developed , and include the ongoing relaxation improvements. such as the Events and Recreation Center and the improvements to Swansson Field.
Willmar was one of four sites throughout the state identified as priority one sites and invited to apply for the grant for the outdoor fitness track. Other sites included Duluth, Rochester and Winona.
There are currently two other outdoor fitness tracks in Minnesota, located in Waite Park and Worthington.
The city will also receive an additional $20,000 for the artwork that will sit on the wall separating two sections of the court, $3,000 of which will be paid to a local artist to design the artwork and the remaining to install, according to Valiant.
According to the timeline for the award, the concrete slab will be installed in May or earlier, pending weather conditions, with assembly of the court taking place in June and the court opening to the public as soon as July.
The city’s contribution for construction of the outdoor fitness track is expected to be approximately $145,000 and will come from the Willmar Parks and Recreation Department’s capital improvement fund.
Nelsen asked what the funds were delegated for before the city learned the grant had been awarded.
Parks and Recreation Director Rob Baumgarn explained that the Parks and Recreation Department has a capital improvement plan to replace equipment in city parks, and the equipment that would be replaced this year will be pushed back a year.
Age Friendly Minnesota Community Award
Valiant told the council that she worked on this grant, along with Michelle Kiefer, regional community wellness specialist for CentraCare, and that the Vision 2040 group also talked about making Willmar an age-friendly city.
Age Friendly Minnesota is a collaborative statewide effort to make communities more inclusive and responsive to older adults, according to its website. It is part of a global movement to prepare for an aging population and ensure that older people are valued and integrated into communities at a new level.
The city will work with various groups to plan what is needed in the city to make it more inclusive and responsive to people as they age, and the process will take about five years, according to Valiant.
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