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Opinion: Estevan's walking track is great, but is a policy needed?

Walking track is particularly important for those who don't feel comfortable in a gym.
A policy has been adopted for the walking track at Affinity Place for the first time.

Since Affinity Place first opened to the public nearly a dozen years ago (yes, it’s been that long), the walking track has been a valuable amenity.

Regardless of the season, it’s been a place where people of all ages and fitness levels could gather to exercise. Perhaps they’re looking for a nice leisurely stroll while they socialize with friends. Perhaps they’re speed walking. Or maybe they’re incorporating the track into a jog that will see them run up and down the stairs for each section.

It’s been a well-utilized part of Affinity Place.

And there hasn’t been much talk about it. The only issue that I can recall came a few years ago, when there was speculation the city would start charging people to use the track, a discussion that ended fairly quickly. The city would have needed to have a staff member watching the track at all times, and if people had to purchase a monthly leisure services membership to use the track, the number of users would have declined dramatically.

The Affinity Place walking track is a rarity for municipalities: a recreation amenity that is used regularly, requires little maintenance other than cleaning, is free to use, and is popular and appreciated by users and non-users alike.

The track came up late last year at Estevan city council. The issue was a complaint about fitness classes happening on the track and the concourse level. Estevan city council decided it needed a policy for the track.

I’m not sure why we suddenly need this when it has been largely a problem-free area for more than 11 1/2 years.

Some of the issues discussed shouldn’t require a policy. They should be common sense. No wheels on the walking track, except for strollers and walkers. (Then again, it should be common sense to have a no-wheels policy on the Chamney Running Track near the Estevan Comprehensive School, but I’ve seen a growing number of boneheads using bicycles on that track, despite the damage that bikes cause over time).

Proper footwear is required. Again, it shouldn’t be posted. No sprinting or racing. Makes sense for a two-lane surface.

Perhaps the biggest change might be to have no equipment allowed, including hockey sticks, balls, pucks, pylons, mats, weights or skipping ropes. This was one of the issues that came up at December’s meeting.

There isn’t a lot of room on the track and the concourse area, but I think there should be enough space to run certain exercises next to the two-lane track with pylons or light weights, as long as they don’t inconvenience other users.

There are also new guidelines for Estevan minor hockey teams and when they can and can’t use the track.

It seems like enforcement is going to be very difficult. 

The walking track is particularly valuable during the winter months. I’m sure that the people who use it regularly really missed it when it was shut down for two weeks during the recently curling provincials. And there isn’t a true alternative for the users during the winter months. It was too cold to walk during the coldest days, and a lot of people aren’t keen to walk outdoors when it’s -5 C, either.

Many of the people who use the track for walking likely aren’t going to feel comfortable in a gym, no matter how hard a gym will try to be welcoming.

There are a lot of people who need the track for winter jogging, too.

During the summer months, people have options for walking, including the track near the Estevan Comprehensive School or the city’s pathway system.

It’s a balance the city needs to maintain. You need to have a place where people feel comfortable to walk casually, but you also have to remember that there are other people need the track for a more vigourous workout.

Ultimately, it’s incumbent on users to respect each other. It can mean staying out of the way of others, remembering that there are just two lanes on the track. Sometimes, you have to watch out for slower people.

Sometimes, it means remembering that you might need to walk single file so you don’t slow down the joggers.

And sometimes it means remembering that there are those slower than you on the track.

If there is a problem, take it up with that person in a courteous, friendly manner before griping to the city.

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