New Fitness Area Along Rail Trail

shippensburg township fitness rail trail

New fitness area along rail trail offers socially-distanced, open-aired exercise for Shippensburg community 

Over the past year, many people’s exercise and fitness environments have shifted due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns. Recreational areas, particularly rail trails, are busier than ever. Gen Rec Playground Consultant Steve Hemler worked with Shippensburg Township to help them meet the demand for open-aired, social-distanced exercise options.

The rural township’s rail trail seemed the perfect place. “Even before the pandemic, we observed that runners and cyclists would stretch out on the curbs along the rail trail’s parking area,” recalls Doris Asper, Assistant Manager of Parks. “We thought, what if we created dedicated space for folks to warm up, cool down and actually work out?”

Similar to the concept of a pocket park, which is typically an urban green space used for small events, play and lunch breaks, Steve’s concept of a  “pocket gym” is a small grouping of exercise equipment at different points along a trail to enhance the recreation experience.

Doris and her team worked with Steve to select a series of Landscape Structures’ HealthBeat exercise components. They were looking for equipment that would be durable, easy to clean, non-intimidating and accessible to teens and adults with a range of exercise ability.

“Working with Steve was a dream,” says Doris. “He never made us  feel like we were imposing him with our questions. Steve was very responsive and followed up on everything.”

Steve designed a circuit of exercise stations, including a mobility walk and stair; Tai Chi wheels; a jump touch; a stretch structure for upper body and core, dips and pull-ups; and assisted row and push-up components. The fitness area is conveniently located by the north entrance of the park, parking lot and rail trailhead, with a pavilion and restrooms nearby.

“We’re impressed with the quality of the equipment. The golden color really makes it stand out, yet complements the natural environment,” shares Doris.  “In addition, the equipment is easy to sanitize.”

The installation included an order for several stationed hand sanitizers for key areas throughout the park, including one for the fitness area.

When the “pocket gym” opened in October 2020, the community responded enthusiastically. “Immediately, our residents were using it,” says Doris. “We’re looking forward to additional enhancements, particularly ADA accessible projects, for the future.”

“It was fun to work with a community that’s forward-thinking and sensitive to it’s changing needs,” says Steve. In his experience, fitness stations integrate well not only into rural rail trails, but also urban trail systems, ball field complexes, or adjacent to playgrounds.

“It’s an economical, safe, social-distanced exercise option. If residents are already visiting the trail, they can easily incorporate the HealthBeat circuit into their daily routine,” explains Steve. “The community can receive the advantages of physical fitness without a budget-busting investment.”

To learn more about designing a rural or urban fitness trail for your community, contact your local General Recreation Playground Consultant at 800-726-4793 or

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