Fitness park

AARP partnered with the Virgin Islands government to build a fitness park at Altona Lagoon, St. Croix.

AARP in the Virgin Islands has partnered with the Sports, Parks and Recreation Department to help residents stay fit.

The local organization recently announced the opening of a sponsored outdoor fitness park at Altona Lagoon on St. Croix.

“This AARP sponsored outdoor fitness park is a symbol of AARP’s commitment to help ensure that the people of the Virgin Islands have a way to exercise and stay healthy as they age,” Troy de Chabert-Schuster, state director of AARP in The Virgin Islands said. “With the use of this park by families and older adults, residents can create connections, engage more and create a sense of community, helping to make our communities more livable.”

The Altona Lagoon fitness park is among the many the AARP plans to sponsor in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to commemorate its 60th anniversary celebrated in 2019.

The fitness parks have been designed and built to serve communities for a decade or more, according to a released statement.

The first AARP Sponsored Outdoor Fitness Park opened in St. Petersburg, Fla., in April 2019.

“We have always worked to help Americans — especially those 50 and over — maintain their health as they age, and this fitness park will help Virgin Islanders stay active and healthy,” AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins, said.“The goal of healthy aging is more important than ever, as average life expectancies have increased.”

She added that the park will “help people stay healthy, whether they use it today or in a few months or years.”

The AARP works with FitLot, a 501c3 organization dedicated to helping communities find the resources they need to plan and build outdoor fitness parks. Each park includes FitLot exercise equipment and comes with programming designed to meet a wide range of fitness levels and abilities.

The parks are the same throughout the country. Each lot is about 1,400 square feet, with three inches of poured-in-place rubber surfacing that meets ASTM safety standards, repurposing 10,000 pounds of recycled tire rubber, keeping that material out of landfills, according to the statement.

The fitness park contains both static and moveable fitness equipment for strength, cardio, balance and flexibility training.

Adjustable resistance dials allow users to increase or decrease the difficulty. Equipment includes a stair stepper, elliptical, chest press and hand cycle with resistance dials. There are also 32 attachment sites for resistance bands. Each piece of equipment has an instructional sign with a QR Code for users to view a brief instructional video on how to use that piece of equipment.

De Chabert-Schuster said the project cost $200,000 — paid for in its entirety by AARP, and took about three weeks to build.

Although locations on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix were considered, the Altona Lagoon location was determined to be the best location to erect the park.

Built on government land, the park was presented as a gift to the government of the Virgin Islands, according to de Chabert-Schuster

In addition to the fitness park, AARP plans to grant funds to the Sports, Parks and Recreation Department to hire a fitness instructor once COVID-19 restrictions ease. The instructor will be funded for three years to offer classes to people of all ages.

Calvert White, Sports, Parks and Recreation commissioner, welcomed the fitness park and partnership with AARP noting the agency was “elated to collaborate with AARP in the Virgin Islands.”

“A part of our mandate is to provide recreational activities for the community. With the opening of the AARP Sponsored Outdoor Fitness Park, we now have another avenue that can cater to our senior population,” he said.

According to White, department officials have always envisioned providing “programs at the park that will enhance the entire community’s physical ability and quality of life.”

“Thank you to AARP for making this a reality,” White said.