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City Designates Land for Fitness Center

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September 8, 2010 by wcobserver

By Susan McCarthy

West Fork- Three rural West Fork women have a dream that has just  become one step closer to reality after the city council voted last week to designate a piece of city-owned land for a fitness center in West Fork.

Eula Lichty and Sybil Baker were working out last September at the Center for Exercise in Fayetteville when they started talking about how nice it would be to have somewhere to exercise closer to home.  They roped in fellow exerciser, Lynn Smith, and the three women have done some  leg-work outside the gym since first sharing the idea with West Fork’s city council in February of this year.

The women have visited and called at least five city-operated fitness centers to find out how they were funded, what types of people used the facility and how often they used it, what services each offered and what operating costs might look like.  What they found was a broad range of answers to all of these questions, but that a facility without a pool could be constructed and equipped for $400,000.

Their vision includes a fee-based, self-sustaining, city-owned facility that is equipped with cardio and strength building equipment and includes rooms for exercise classes.

“I’d like to see something like this for our area…for Winslow, Greenland, Hogeye, Brentwood,” said Lichty.  “If you have enough people, you can keep the costs reasonable.”

After sharing their findings with city officials at the Aug. 10 city council meeting, the council voted to designate the piece of land behind the West Fork Community Center for a fitness facility. The land is currently occupied by a ball field that the city plans to move, anyway, says Lichty.

Lichty said it was necessary to secure a location for the fitness center in order to apply for grants that the city hopes might find such a facility.

“If you don’t have land, there’s no use in talking,” said Smith.

“The city council has designated a spot.  Now we have to start with grant research, estimates for construction, costs to keep it running and costs to the public,” said West Fork Mayor Jan Throgmorton.

“We’re hearing from a lot of people they don’t want to drive to Fayetteville two or three times a week to exercise,” Throgmorton said, but quickly adds, “With the economy the way it is, we can’t add anything that will add costs.”

Throgmorton said the city will work with the Northwest Arkansas Planning Commission to determine which grants may be available for the project.

“They do the actual application process for it,” she said.  “I think it’s a possible reality of a dream, but it’s still all legwork at this point.”

Throgmorton said it’s too early to set a timeline and that funding is just one of many details to still be ironed out.

“I’m really excited that we’re this far along,” said Lichty.

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