A Summary Of Outdoor Fitness Parks in Vancouver
An examination of the array of proposed and existing fitness parks in Vancouver suggests we have a long way to go to find the best design sweet spot. What is that best design sweet spot? It’s the intersection of functionality, affordability, accessibility and reproducibility that results in a best fitness park concept for everyone of all abilities. The fitness areas are presented randomly in our numbered list and order of appearance does not represent a rating.
1. Windermere Community Fitness Park
When this fitness park opened on August 12, 2022 it became standard for all other fitness parks in Vancouver. By design, this is an outdoor circuit training venue built to host up to 30 kids with 2 kids on each of the 15 exercise stations. The brainchild of Brad White, PE director at Windermere Secondary School, the Windermere Community Fitness Park is located on the school grounds at 27th Avenue and Lillooet Street.
2. Barclay Fitness Park
This information was extracted from the shapeyourcity.ca website. “At the proposed location at Barclay Heritage Square, there’ll be a main piece of calisthenics equipment with a variety of features on it; and there will likely be an additional piece of fitness equipment that is universally accessible for all ages and abilities.”
3. Stanley Park Fitness Park – Second Beach
Vancouver’s oldest calisthenics infrastructure, this trio of rings, a hanging bar and fixed bar, has been show-off central since the 1960’s or perhaps earlier. The installation lacks low parallel bars, essential for performing “dips”, while the triangles of supporting legs are often used to devise new exercises. It’s kind of odd that over a half-century or more since its installation, nothing has been added to enhance this modest setup. Had we the foresight, this modest beginning could have been the start of Vancouver’s Venice Beach.
4a. Empire Fields – Parkour Structure
The parkour structure east of the roller coaster at Empire Fields is mostly used by people trying to workout on the various oversized horizontal bars. It is perhaps the most used “fitness park” in Vancouver, even though it’s not a fitness park per-se. The popularity of this place demonstrates the need for well-conceived and well-designed dedicated fitness infrastructure within existing parks here in Vancouver. Ironically, there is a collection of dilapidated exercise stations, used mostly by kids to play on, 20 metres from the parkour area!
4b. Empire Fields – Fitness Equipment
Adjacent to the parkour structure at Empire Fields plaza, there is an actual fitness park complete with dilapidated single-purpose exercise stations. This run down array of machines is completely ignored by Vancouver Parks and Recreation, the developers and managers of the site. The equipment has been out of service for years and is used mostly by kids to play on. It goes without saying but… this site would make a great location for a well-planned and designed outdoor fitness park like the Windermere Community Fitness Park.
5. South Memorial Fitness Park
Set deep within South Memorial Park, this pleasant little fitness park is comparatively well-equipped and designed to accommodate a range of abilities from young adults to seniors to those who are rehabilitating from injuries. During our visit the most popular exercise station was the pull-up and dip combo (otherwise defined as a high bar and parallel lower bars). A shirtless youngster named “Ahnold” (struth!) was sharing the exercise unit with an Indo-Canadian woman in her seventies! This fitness park is located close to several bike routes, so do stop by and try out this facility set in one of Vancouver’s nicest parks.
6. Oakridge Adventist Church Fitness Park
Kudos to the Oakridge Adventist Church for their whole-hearted gift of health to the community. Located along the 37th Avenue bike route this nicely equipped little fitness park appeared out of nowhere one day. If only the city of Vancouver’s parks department worked as swiftly to make outdoor fitness a priority! The OAC fitness park is compact and offers a variety of high, low and parallel bar combinations as well as stretching and mobility equipment. This street-facing fitness park is clearly a reflection of the welcoming attitude of the church which comes across as “support the body to support the spirit”.
7. China Creek North Fitness Park
This is not so much a fitness park but a series of 4 exercise stations positioned arbitrarily along a gravel track around the perimeter of China Creek North Park. Only 1 of the 4 exercise stations is an actual multi-use unit. The other stations include a set of low parallel bars, three steps of unequal heights (i.e. a plyobox-like feature), and a station with three pairs of handles suspended at different heights from an overhead bar. Working out here means you’ll be doing a fair bit of walking or jogging between exercises. This is not a bad thing. Upon visiting the park, we noted there were 2 or 3 people working out on the elaborate kids playground structures while a mom and her kid played on the 3 sets of rings station.
8. Douglas Fitness Park
There has been a fitness park for many years at Douglas Park. Years ago, the exercise stations were distributed along a section of a bark mulch trail but now the modest setup including two high bars and a set of low parallel bars is sequestered in a small area near the park’s northeastern corner. Here in the fitness area at Douglas park, there are more benches to relax on than there are exercise stations to workout on.
9. Prince Edward Fitness Park
Prince Edward Park is a nice park generally, brimming with community and an ideal location for a future fitness park. Currently the intrepid fitness park hunter will find two high bars, and two parallel bar options, one set at two feet of height and the other set at a height of around eight feet. Those who use suspension training systems in conjunction with high bars would be better off locating a tree branch as an alternative anchor to avoid the little mud pits at the base of the high bars.
10. Kitsilano Beach Fitness Park
The fitness equipment at Kitsilano Beach is identical in design and age to the infrastructure at Stanley Park Second Beach. There’s a static high bar, high rings and a high free bar set within two supporting triangles of legs. With this identical set-up comes identical issues, mostly the absence of mid-height parallel bars for pushing movements like dips. Once again, this would the perfect spot for a well-conceived and designed community fitness park.
11. Stanley Park Fitness Park – Brockton Oval
This decades-old spartan array of outdoor fitness equipment is set amid a trio of horseshoe pitches behind Stanley Park’s Brockton Oval Fieldhouse. The mid and high bar set is located next to set of low parallel bars. Next to this, a unique set of wide parallel ladder-style bars starts high but slopes gradually down over the six rungs of its length to just above chest height. This will make for some interesting perpendicular pulling options using stretchy bands to suspend the legs.
12. Carnarvon Park
The exercise equipment at Carnarvon Park is situated out under a row of shade trees at Carnarvon and 19th Avenue. A pleasant setting overall, the exercise equipment includes a high ladder (parallel bars set at about 8 feet), low and mid-height bars, and represents a standard array of stations seen in other early 90’s designs. The equipment is set on grassy surface and as such may be prone to degenerating into muddy pits during the winter months.
13. Fraserview Park
From the City of Vancouver ParkFinder website: “This is one of our first park upgrades to include outdoor fitness equipment and has proven to be extremely popular with the neighbourhood’s residents”. At first glance the majority exercise stations are the expensive but single purpose variety. But there are high, medium and low bars available. And if all else fails, anchor your suspension trainer on some part of the elaborate playground equipment nearby and go to town.
14. Tisdall Park
As current community fitness parks in Vancouver go, this one’s pretty fancy, complete with stations equipped with hydraulic cylinders with adjustable resistance. Interspersed among the hydraulic resistance machines are standard body-resistance stations like the high bar paired with mid-height parallel bar, known generally as a pull-up and dip combo; a variety of other bars from low to mid-height, and two so-called “Tai-Chi Wheels” stations, used generally for shoulder rehabilitation.