BEACHWOOD, Ohio — City Park East, by fall, could be home to a Fitness Court and outdoor exercise machines, and depending on the cost of materials, construction could start in the fall on work to add a pavilion, restrooms and enlarge the parking lot next to Barkwood dog park.
The above news came about after a discussion that lasted more than an hour was held during the June 21 City Council meeting. Council then voted that night to increase the proposed budget for recreation amenities at the park from $500,000, to $600,000, allowing planning to move forward.
Plans for the additions to the park were conceived about two years ago, although the idea of a Fitness Court was recently suggested by Councilman Eric Synenberg after he saw one at a park in San Francisco. The Fitness Court, billed by its maker as the “World’s Best Outdoor Gym,” incorporates “7 movements in 7 minutes” as an outdoor bodyweight circuit-training system.
Plans also call for adding other exercise machines for outdoor use next to the Fitness Court, which would be installed in space just north of the Barkwood parking lot. Speaking of the added exercise machines, Mayor Martin Horwitz said, “They’re specifically built for outdoor use and they put them as far north as Canada, so they can be used in cold weather.”
Council agreed to seek bids for the pavilion, restrooms and parking lot extension. The current high cost of materials, however, could lead the city to seek additional bids at a later date, which could push construction back to next spring.
Since the September, 2019 opening of Barkwood dog park at Park East, located off Shaker Boulevard East, those who use the park have been asking for restrooms.
“A lot of this is old stuff,” Horwitz said. “The idea of having restrooms by the dog park we talked about originally two years ago when we built the dog park. At that time, there were severe limitations put on by the prior council president (Brian Linick). It had to be within a certain budget and restrooms would have certainly put us over that budget. And so we said, ‘All right, we’ll do the dog park now and we’ll just have to wait for the restrooms.’”
When the dog park was added, so was infrastructure, Horwitz said, in anticipation of the park gaining more uses.
“When I came in here (as mayor), there was really no use of Shaker (Boulevard) Park East,” Horwitz said. “It was just a walking path. I thought this is land that is very valuable to the community for recreation and we chose to put the dog park there and it turned out to be (a success).
“We have more people who use the dog park on a regular basis than the pool. We have more than 400 families that belong now to that dog park. It’s a big attraction. People come every day.”
Horwitz said that 12 spaces will be added to the Barkwood parking lot when the amenities are installed. He said that the thought has been that when other amenities are made part of the park, there would be a need for a pavilion, with picnic tables, to be added.
“We just need to see what size of pavilion we need, and whether we duplicate (the pavilion) at Park West, or whether we do something a little different,” he said.
Synenberg, who proposed the motion to increase the budget for the project, said, “The administration will have full discretion as to how to spend the $600,000.” That discretion will include whether pre-fabricated restrooms are installed, or if they will be built on site.
The increase in the budget and the project go-ahead only narrowly received council approval. It passed by a 4-3 vote, with Councilmen Justin Berns, Mike Burkons and Alec Isaacson opposing. The three councilman did not oppose the project, but believed that more discussion and public input would be helpful in creating a park residents truly want.
Berns also expressed concern that the restrooms and pavilion would be of a quality that will meet the city’s standards. Burkons questioned whether the expenditure would match what residents really want and if residents would use the Fitness Court, for which the city has already received a $30,000 grant and sponsorship interest.
Community Services Director Derek Schroeder said that he intends to have regular exercise classes, with trainers, conducted at the Fitness Court to ensure it is put to use.
“I’m hopeful that the exercise equipment will be used, and I think the restrooms are going to be appreciated by people using Barkwood or taking a walk in the park,” said Councilwoman Barbara Bellin Janovitz, who championed the building of Barkwood.
In order to make room for the new amenities, some trees will have to be removed. “We’re trying to make it (tree removal) as minimal as possible,”’ Horwitz said. Synenberg said he has included in the legislation language stating that every tree removed will be replaced somewhere in the city.
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