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A Clever Use for Awkwardly Sized Vacant Lots: Outdoor Gyms

Free workout spots could help tackle the obesity epidemic, too.
A woman works out in an outdoor exercise area at Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx.
A woman works out in an outdoor exercise area at Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx.Mike Segar/Reuters

Many urban parks become de facto fitness spaces. Joggers dart around kids teetering on bikes. It’s not uncommon to see someone lunging across asphalt, breaking into squats or burpees, or enlisting a bench for standing push-ups. But some parks are specifically designed with fitness opportunities in mind.

Scattered throughout the Piety Hill neighborhood of Detroit—a corridor just off Woodward Avenue once lined with stately cathedrals—are small patches of land being turned into fitness spaces. With a new $110,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation, the Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation is working to transform vacant plots into free outdoor gyms. They’re focusing on a 24-block residential area.