Recently Windsor property owner and local entrepreneur Larry Horwitz proposed a plan to make the stretch of waterside more friendly to fitness buffs by installing a public, outdoor gym.
While this is a good idea in theory, a long list of problems immediately spring to the fore. I don’t want to shut down a unique idea to improve the waterfront, just highlight some potential problems to keep in mind.
The riverfront is a busy place, especially on weekends. When the sun is out and, the weather is nice, there are hundreds of people on any given day walking, biking, reading, or just enjoying the view.
According to concept art posted on windsorstar.com the exercise area would consist of 8 or 9 pieces of workout gear. Anyone looking to get a quick workout session is going to be disappointed when each piece of equipment is inevitably taken at any given moment.
Not just taken by exercisers mind you, but also just by people looking for a place to sit, loiter, or stand around and talk.
While waterfront patrons, in my experience, are generally nice and understanding, you do get your fair share who just want to lean on the elliptical and don’t care for a second that you want it.
This will be made worse by the fact that its planned location is at the foot of Ouellette Avenue, the busiest section of the riverfront. Serious exercisers are going to be put off from using the equipment when it’s being swamped with sedentary hangers-on.
Since this will be an unsupervised area, it’s going to be every man or woman for themselves and nobody is going to have a satisfying workout.
Speaking of women, I’d stand to wager that many of them wont feel comfortable working out in a public space, exposed to the world. Sure, many women jog the trail down there, but running is different; it’s mobile.
If a creep is giving you the saucy eye you will be 50 yards away from them in a matter of seconds.
In a gym, if you’re feeling uncomfortable, you can get an employee to help, or even use a women’s only gym. But, in public you have little recourse.
Imagine doing crunches in front of a crowd of gawkers in public. Not exactly the most comfortable position.
Horwitz believes that this equipment can be maintained, even over the winter. But, what about daily maintenance? Garbage, leaves, water, and other aspects of the environment are going to be a daily concern, not only for aesthetics, but safety.
If someone slips and falls, or injures themselves, on wet, dirty, or broken equipment, how much is that lawsuit going to cost?
While I think it’s possible for weekly maintenance, as evidenced by garbage pickups and bathroom facilities, day-to-day upkeep seems unlikely.
As someone who uses the riverfront several days a week to run, read, or just to sit and enjoy the view, I want to encourage more ideas like Horwitz’s. It’s a great idea and has potential to be a real asset for the downtown community.
I just don’t want $100,000 or more to be wasted on development without addressing these potential pitfalls.
Horwitz is an experienced businessman, so I’m sure he will investigate these problems. But, he should remain open to changes and suggestions.
Perhaps instead of having one centralized location, spread equipment out along the trail as workout stations of sorts along the jogging route.
Instead of Ouellette, pick the less crowded sections of the riverfront. Make sure to install water fountains near the stations. There is only one currently on the trail and it’s always out of order.
Another bathroom pavilion would also be useful and maybe a public phone in case of emergencies.
These are all ideas that need to be considered before starting this project. I am looking forward to see this idea progress and I hope that Mr Horwitz puts extra thought into what could possibly attract more people to the downtown sector.