Ask Us: Park health programs want clear directions | Native Information


Q: Hello, I recently read about planned updates for Hiniker Park that include outdoor fitness equipment. I live near Highland Park and MSU where there are trails that this type of equipment is and I rarely (if ever) see adults use it, although my kids think it’s fun to put on it to climb (and a bit dangerous). I exercise regularly and most of the machines are so dark that I would never use them. Did the city take this into account when updating parks? It seems that the money could be used for hiking trails or other park upgrades that people actually use instead. Are you wondering if this is just trendy?

Many Thanks!

ON: Susan Arntz, City Manager of Mankato, addressed this issue when she spoke about the planned park upgrades at Hiniker Pond Park, although that part of the interview was not included in the stories in The Free Press.

Arntz said it was critical that public exercise equipment contain clear instructions that use visual images and show how the equipment should be used. She also stressed that the equipment must be designed so that it can be used by people of all ages and fitness levels.

Yes, if it is a trend to place fitness equipment in public parks. Arntz mentioned that Bloomington has fitness equipment in several of its parks. In Mankato, training stations were added to Highland Park last year after first arriving at Sibley Park eight years ago. Adding a fitness class to Riverfront Park is also considered.

The goal is to give people the opportunity to do a full-body workout even if they can’t afford a gym membership.

Sibley Park equipment includes a cardio stepper, squat press, tai chi wheels, chest press, and an abs and leg lift.

Ask us Guy, who definitely needs clear instructions on how to do any of these things, has another suggestion to get people to use the equipment more: don’t put it where a lot of people are. His theory is that shy Minnesotans don’t. I don’t want a bunch of onlookers to watch them fight their way through a training routine.

In Sibley Park, for example, the training equipment is located between a picnic area and the extremely popular farm-themed playground. There is no way Ask Us Guy can focus on his squats and abs with young children constantly wandering over from the playground asking questions like, “Lord, why is your face red like a tomato?” or “Mom, does this man have a stroke?”

So, yes, city workers should move the machines to the most isolated place they can find in any park.

Q: The state of Minnesota plans to rebuild Highway 22 through Wells. Why is there no way to build a bypass around the city?

ON: There appear to be two main reasons why a bypass around the town of Faribault County, which has 2,336 residents, is not being considered.

First, it’s expensive to build a brand new road. A bypass around the west side of Wells would have to be at least 5 miles to connect Highway 22 north of town to Highway 22 on the south side and Highway 109 to the southeast, which means that much of the privately owned farmland will be purchased before the cost of construction is added .

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is considering building bypasses from time to time, but only if the route through the city is unacceptably congested.

“While MnDOT is currently setting the scope of the project, we don’t expect bypassing Wells as a viable option as there are no mobility or capacity issues along the corridor,” said Anne Wolff, a public engagement coordinator for MnDOT. “If we found significant congestion and delay, a cost-benefit analysis would determine whether circumvention is warranted.”

(Though Wolff didn’t mention it, traffic is unlikely to increase significantly in Wells, whose population has declined since 1960, when 2,897 people lived there.)

Second, building a Wells bypass would not solve the problem of the deteriorating condition of Highway 22, the main north-south route through the city. MnDOT plans to spend up to $ 13.8 million on rebuilding the freeway, also known as Second Avenue. There will be new sidewalks, new utilities, possible walking paths or other improvements for pedestrians, and – if the Wells residents so wish – aesthetic improvements like landscaping and decorative street lighting.

“MnDOT recently collected feedback from the community on issues and opportunities across the project corridor,” said Wolff. “We will combine this community input with the technical and environmental data to determine the purpose and scope of the project.”

People who want to stay informed about the project can sign up for email updates at

Contact Ask us at The Free Press, PO Box 3287, Mankato, MN 56002. Call Mark Fischenich at 344-6321 or email your question to Put Ask Us in the subject line.