Norwich — From now on, the phrase “getting exercise in Mohegan Park” can mean more than going for a walk, a bike ride or a summertime swim.
Norwich resident Stephen Tillman, a frequent walker in Mohegan Park Center, was surprised last Wednesday to find some shiny recent changes to his normal route. He went home to tell his wife, Celeste, and bring her down to see the seven new outdoor exercise stations in the park center, stretching from the beach parking lot to the arbor walkway.
“He came home and said, ‘I gotta show you something,’” Celeste Tillman said. “I thought he was going to show me some new ducks.”
They both tried a few machines, like ones they use at Planet Fitness and at the Rose City Senior Center. Both gave their approval.
For years, city Public Works Department Civil Engineer Jean-Paul Laguerre has wanted to bring to Norwich the type of adult outdoor exercise equipment he had seen at Washington Park in Groton. His plan was always thwarted by budget constraints.
The American Rescue Plan changed that. The city allocated $50,000 of its $14 million ARP grant to install seven weather-proof exercise stations along the walking path that leads from the beach parking lot to the park center. The department has spent $43,159 and may have enough money for one more station.
“I’ve always wanted to put one in Norwich,” Laguerre said, “and the plan is to keep going with it. With some money left over, I want to put in a kettle bell station. That’s very popular these days, with different weights. They’re not movable, so people couldn’t steal them.”
So far, Norwich has an ab toner, leg press, rower and a bench press, all with adjustable tension resistance, a sit-up bench, a two-person pull-up and dip station, and two machines that are handicapped accessible, a two-person butterfly and reverse fly and a two-person chest press.
Each piece is labeled with instructions and proper body positioning.
The city Public Works Department installed all the equipment and will create a paved path for wheelchairs to have easier approaches to the stations, Laguerre said.
On the rainy Thursday last week, Laguerre went to the park to check out the new installations, which had been completed just two days prior. He said he was pleased to hear compliments from walkers passing by. Laguerre tried a couple of the machines and said the pull-up and dip station is his favorite.
City Comptroller Josh Pothier said the project falls under the U.S. Treasury’s ARP spending category “Strong, Healthy Communities: Neighborhood features that promote health and safety.”
Beryl Fishbone, chairwoman of the Mohegan Park Improvements and Development Advisory Committee, also was all smiles Wednesday as she walked along the park center path, talking to park-goers about the new machines. Fishbone, a strong advocate for park improvements, including the recently completed and soon-to-be-expanded disc golf course.
“The exercise equipment has barely had time to be warmed by the sun and it’s been in use and the positive talking has begun!” Fishbone wrote in an email last week to Public Works Director Patrick McLaughlin. “Thank you and the NPW staff for the exercise placement and installation. It is a rare thing in Norwich to hear and read on social media such positive things.”
Fishbone thanked the Public Works staff on behalf of the committee for their work to install the adult exercise equipment, “as well as the always great maintenance they keep of the park,” she wrote in the email.
Fishbone said the committee had suggested the upper parking lot near the Lakeside Pavilion for placement of the exercise equipment, but McLaughlin steered the project to the park center. Fishbone now agrees with the location and thanked the City Council for approving the funding.
The City Council also has approved $90,000 to upgrade the children’s playground in the park center near the beach.
“We’re working on that right now, but the lead time is August for that,” Laguerre said, referring to a delay in receiving the ordered playground equipment. “So, hopefully we will be getting the equipment, so the park will look better. The old ones are kind of old and dingy.”
The Tillmans gave Fishbone another suggestion to improve the park, a pickleball court. Norwich pickleball enthusiasts now convert half of the indoor events room in the Rose City Senior Center for pickleball. He pointed out flat areas that could accommodate a court. Fishbone asked him to bring the suggestion to the park committee.
“We need an outdoor court,” Stephen Tillman said.