ELLSWORTH — Ellsworth area adults and seniors will soon have a new place to play and get fit.
City officials and Friends in Action received word this week that the city had been awarded a $40,000 grant to install several pieces of fitness equipment, game tables and benches at Knowlton Park.
“It’s really for the whole community,” said Jo Cooper, executive director of Friends in Action.
“It looks like playground equipment but it’s exercise equipment,” said Cooper. Several pieces of the equipment will be wheelchair-friendly.
“There’s a lot of interest in these all throughout the country,” Cooper continued. “They are a real draw for people.”
Adult playgrounds have been popping up around the country in recent years and have long been popular in China, Japan, parts of Europe and South America. The sites are aimed at promoting fitness as well as combating social isolation.
The city helped Friends in Action apply for the matching grant from the Maine Bureau of Parks & Lands last fall, but there was a hurdle: Friends in Action would have to raise $40,000 itself in order to get an additional $40,000 in matching funds.
“The council doesn’t want to have any projects that increase taxes,” Cooper said. “We were able to raise almost $40,000 and that’s being matched. We got over 100 letters of support.”
Friends in Action also received a matching grant early on through AARP for around $3,500, Cooper said. She expects the additional grant to cover the costs.
“It’s just been a very slow process. The grant was submitted in November and we’ve basically been twiddling our thumbs ever since. The government shutdown held us up for a month.”
The equipment will be installed close to the children’s playground, said Cooper, near the parking lot. There will be a station for doing bar dips and another where users can mimic the motion of cross country skiing, as well as a balancing station with steps. The game tables will have a chess board printed on them, said Cooper, “So you can play checkers or chess or other games too.”
Friends in Action also has an indoor fitness center located at The Moore Community Center, where the nonprofit holds classes and has a variety of fitness equipment aimed at adults 50 and older.
Cooper said she expects work to start on the project in the spring. The city is donating in-kind engineering services.
“It’s just really cool,” Cooper said.