Local business owner Gary Chambers may not have been the only park-goer to notice the deteriorating wooden workout equipment along the Kern River Parkway off Truxtun Avenue and Commercial Way, but he was the one who decided to do something about it.
Chambers' company, Ace Hydraulic Sales and Service, Inc., picked up the $12,600 tab for 11 new pieces of equipment, including monkey bars and balance beams, to replace the park's 22-year-old gear. The refurbished fitness trail was unveiled on Monday's sunny afternoon.
Dianne Hoover, director of Bakersfield's Department of Recreation and Parks, said before Chambers' gift her office had noticed the sad state of the equipment and was removing it little by little, but the department hadn't set a timeframe to replace it or solicited donations to do so.
Chambers' unsolicited offer was great and "very unusual," Hoover said.
"(Chambers) saw the need and he came forward and wanted do this," she said.
After biking by the dilapidated equipment several times a week and speaking to other park patrons about the need for something better, Chambers called Bakersfield City Councilwoman Sue Benham offering to help with new equipment. Benham in turn arranged a meeting with Hoover earlier this year.
"Well I can say that my job would be easy if I had a lot more constituents like Gary Chambers," Benham said at Monday's event.
Standing at the start of the trail, Chambers said he wanted to add his own contributions to the improvements he's seen in Bakersfield. He also wanted to make something tangible happen at a local level.
"I do get a little frustrated sending my tax dollars to Washington or Sacramento and our tax money goes to Afghanistan or New York. I just wanted to make sure that our money stayed here in Bakersfield," he said.
Chambers traveled to the coast to visit the manufacturer of the equipment and selected the new gear with help from Aaron Gillies, fitness director at Pair & Marotta Physical Therapy, whom he met through his own physical therapy.
Gillies demonstrated how to use the new equipment for a group gathered Monday, hopping over a winding S-bar and doing chin-ups on the monkey bars.
He said the revamped workout stations are particularly good for upper body exercises and can be used with different degrees of difficulty depending on the users' ability. He hopes a free introduction to the park's gear can be organized so people register that the equipment is here and how to safely use it.
"We really want people to get the most of that it and a lot of that takes a little bit of training," Gillies said.
The trail already has one promised patron. Chambers said he plans to incorporate the new equipment in his own fitness routine.
"I'm sure every time I ride by here now on my bicycle, I'll stop and utilize it and maybe make some more friends and show 'em how to use the equipment," he said.