by: ENERGI - This example of outdoor fitness equipment could become a reality along a walking path in Woodburn's Centennial Park in March 2014 if the Ford Institute Leadership Program's Woodburn cohort can raise enough funds by September. The group has to raise $12,000, with only $5,500 still needed.Young leaders in Woodburn are working to provide the community with free tools to get in shape.

The Ford Institute Leadership Program, which began its second Woodburn cohort in January, is made up of at least a dozen members, some as young as middle school age, with the common desire to learn leadership skills and work on a community service project.

The leadership seminars wrapped up in the spring, and in April the group began to brainstorm what kind of service project they wanted to do.

Cesar Ramos, 17, a senior at Academy of International Studies, hearkened back to his visit to Beijing last summer with the Woodburn High School Travel Club, when he saw community members exercising in a plaza.

“There were (workout) machines there, space in the middle for martial arts and people walking by,” he recalled. “It was just a normal environment for them. I got a very good vibe about it because people respect what each other was doing. Even though the one I came across was pretty small, it was very well kept by the community around it.”

The group took off with Ramos’ idea, and soon they began working with the city’s parks department and fundraising for five to 10 exercise stations that will be placed along the walking path in Centennial Park.

“The project the group wanted to do was a Frisbee golf course, but after research it would take a minimum of 9 acres to safely install, so this is a project that we can all get behind,” said Lisa Ellsworth, a city councilor and one of the leaders on Ford’s fundraising committee.

“We presented that to the city and they liked it. It’s something that’s manageable that we could be successful doing.”

The equipment would cost about $9,000, and wouldn’t be made of wood, which is vulnerable to rot in poor weather conditions, but of a special plastic material.

“These (stations) are conducive to conditions in the Northwest,” Ellsworth said. “We’re going to choose quality over quantity. Whatever is put in, we’ll make sure it lasts, that it’s safe and working.”

The conclusion of the project and construction is projected for March 2014, but the group hopes to finish fundraising by September.

The total cost of the project, which also includes installation, is $12,000. About $5,500 is still needed.

So far, the group has been award grants from Woodburn Kiwanis and Woodburn Together and will receive a matching $5,000 grant from the Ford Family Foundation.

The group has also done a car wash and is planning a rummage sale Aug. 17 at the Woodburn Fire Station.

Additionally, the group, one-third of which consists of high school students, is still applying for grants.

“It’s an opportunity for members of the class to learn and do grant writing,” Ellsworth said.

“We’ve identified grant sources and individual members are taking on the responsibility of applying for those grants.”

Members of the group think this would be a perfect project to benefit all of Woodburn.

“I feel that Woodburn is very athletic,” Ramos said. “I think the last few years when we’ve taken the (state soccer) championship I feel like that is an example of the entire city because these are kids who have been raised by the community. I feel like what we need now is more: more people, more competition, more united and Woodburn being a small community would benefit by this.”

It’s even valuable for Woodburn residents who aren’t that athletic, Ellsworth added.

“This is something that transcends gender, age, race, socioeconomic status,” she said. “You can use it by yourself, or with a friend. Everyone needs fitness and this is something anyone could use at any level. And this is something that’s free, that’s available to every member of the community.”

From the city’s point of view, it’s also a positive, according to Jim Row, community services director.

“I am excited that the Ford Leadership group decided to install outdoor exercise stations along the walking paths in Centennial Park,”?he said. “The paths are already very popular with park users and the addition of the exercise stations will greatly enhance the availability of no-cost fitness opportunities to the community.”

To support this year’s FILP project, attend the rummage sale at the Woodburn Fire Station, 1776 Newberg Highway, Aug. 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“This is for everybody,” Ramos said. “This is for Woodburn.”

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