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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

The gym comes to the park

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With warm weather once again gracing us with its presence, our city's parks and trails have revealed themselves anew. To some of us, seeing our recreation areas come back to life serves as a reminder of exactly how inactive we have become during our winter hibernation.

Two green spaces on opposite ends of Toronto bring the gym outside. East of downtown, Kew Gardens and the Beaches Parks have featured public exercise equipment for over 20 years. These parks provide fitness gear alongside the boardwalk, such as stepping blocks and pull-up bars. Scott Attwood, supervisor from the Toronto & East York District Parks Department (Ward 32, Waterfront/Beaches), says that the Beaches equipment was introduced in the early '80s as part of the Participaction fitness craze that was popular in public schools at the time.

Tucked away in Toronto's northwest corner, the West Humber Trail serves suburban Etobicoke by tying together a network of parks, playing fields, and outdoor spaces, and more recently, by providing public fitness equipment. Introduced in the fall of 2007, the equipment ranges from sit-up benches to parallel bars, and is spaced out at stations in intervals along the trail.

The placement of the equipment here, with cyclists, walkers, and inline skaters stopping every ten minutes or so to do a few reps before hitting the trail again, brings to mind primary school circuit training events. Each station provides information on how to properly use the equipment and has basic workout details.

My experience at the West Humber Trail last spring and fall was during weekdays, either during business hours or around dinnertime, so I never encountered very many people using the trail or equipment. But judging by the level of maintenance I've seen along the trail, the route appears to see a lot more rubber than I've come across.

You can find more open-access exercise equipment in a handful of other Toronto green spaces, including High Park and along the waterfront near Sunnyside.