A Brief History of Fitness Parks in Vancouver

Before 50 years before the term fitness park was coined, there were calisthenics parks in European and Asian cities. While many in larger cities were elaborate set-ups, most were simple, no-frills, cold-steel calisthenics parks, consisting mostly of a chin up/pull up bar, a set of rings and, if you’re lucky, you’d find a dipping station. Here in Vancouver we have two notable ultra-barebones calisthenics parks dating back to the post-war years: one at Kits Beach, and the other at Second Beach. Both have just a set of rings and a chin up bar, neither is equipped with a dipping station. Until the early 2000’s, that was it for formal exercise equipment in Vancouver parks. Compare Vancouver to Venice Beach California where a huge array of exercise equipment has been available for public use since the 1930’s. “Muscle Beach” as this locale is called, was made possible through a public works project during the depression years and became, essentially, the birthplace of American fitness culture. Conditions are ideal here in Vancouver for a renaissance of public fitness parks where ingenuity and creativity are forged together with a solid understanding exercise biomechanics to yield simple, effective, durable and accessible exercise destinations.

Muscle Beach Fitness Park (Venice, California) began as a public fitness initiative in the 1930's during the depression years to inspire and motivate the citizenry.
It became ground-zero for the American fitness movement.

To that end, Vancouver is slowly getting retro-fit with fitness parks. The idea that fitness parks can include more than a set of rings and a chin up bar was made manifest in the late 90’s with the retro-fitting of parks like Douglas Park with fitness equipment. At Douglas Park, the north side of the park includes an array of accessible exercise equipment that caters to everyday citizens rather than bodybuilders. More recent was the retro-fitting of China Creek Park (North) which had a few pieces of old-style exercise equipment for years, now expanded and modernized. Current fitness parks include these facilities. The list is not complete as more facilities are being created to go along it seems with every new park project or renewal. Examples like this include the Barclay Calisthenics Park, opening later this year.

Windermere Community Fitness Park is far broader in scope and closer to representing an outdoor public fitness renaissance than anything Vancouver has seen so far in a public fitness park.

Conceived and designed by the director of Physical Education at Windermere Secondary School, Brad White, Windermere Community Fitness Park will have as many as 15 stations each accommodating 2 persons, enough capacity to host a PE class. After school hours, the active walking community of Renfrew Heights will be able to segue into the new fitness park at 27th and Lillooet Street to engage in a myriad of exercises, guided by signage and extended further by scannable QR codes linking to instructional videos. Of course, this vision for public fitness needs to be funded at every possible level. Months of hard work by Brad, other teachers, administrators and an engaged PAC Committee have garnered donations from a variety of sources. But the sad news is the number of funding grants that have been painstakingly prepared and submitted, “i”s dotted, “t”s crossed, only to be denied. There seems to be a lot of organizations competing for limited monetary resources from governments and the private sector.

But citizens of Renfrew heights, this is where you can step up!! If each household within a 1000 metre radius were to donate $50, this gesture of support for public fitness would guarantee Brad’s idea of the Windermere Fitness Park would be expressed in the broadest scope possible.

If you have paid each month, year after year, for a gym membership to Vancouver's many fitness centres, consider making a contribution of $50, approximately the cost of a one-month system wide fitness centre pass. Your one-time contribution will give you and your entire family a life-time membership to the Windermere Fitness Park. Now that's something fit to think about 🙂