Community, health, News

Walking group rambles their way into $45,000 fitness project in Banks

A group of older adults in rural western Washington County who started walking together as part of a study are now deep into the process of funding and installing fitness equipment at Greenville City Park.

What started as an Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) study on health and civics has turned into a project that will benefit not just the people doing the walking, but seniors in Banks and the surrounding area for years to come.

OHSU partnered with the Banks Public Library to convene a walking group that would serve as test subjects in a study the university was conducting on the relationship between rural health and civic engagement.

“The supporting research for the study showed that rural people had less access to exercise and that this lack of exercise is causing an increase in related health problems,” an explainer sheet handed out by the local study group known as the “Rural Ramblers” reads.

Operating in partnership with the Banks City Library, the group usually walks the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, each participant strapping an accelerometer which provides data to the OHSU researchers conducting the study.

An accelerometer on a Rural Rambler May 10 2024. Photo: Chas Hundley

While some of the groups in the study are just walking, the Banks group, led by Susan Cackler, the Banks Public Library Program Director and library liaison for the Rural Ramblers, has a civic aspect as well. The group, Cackler said, had to complete a project that would have some benefit to the community, which OHSU would provide $5,000 to complete.

The Rural Ramblers set their eyes on something more ambitious than a mere $5,000 project: A parcourse, an area set up with various stations that allow participants to do specific exercises. For the Rural Ramblers, who currently span an age range of 55 to 81, equipment was selected that supports balance, muscle core and Aerobic fitness. After eyeing Sunset Park, the group settled on Greenville City Park, gaining approval from the city of Banks to build the parcourse there earlier this year.

Carol Howell, a Gales Creek resident, saw a sign at the Banks Public Library when the study was starting, and joined the group with husband Cloe Howell. “Cleo felt like I roped him in,” she quipped, “but I think he enjoys it now, too.” Photo: Chas Hundley

$5,000 won’t cut it: the Ramblers estimate a $45,000 budget to handle equipment purchases and installation.

With just $5,000 covered by OHSU, the remaining must come from elsewhere, and donations, both cash in kind, are needed, the group said.

Rural Ramblers Fundraising Coordinator Cleo Howell, a Gales Creek resident, put the location between the basketball court and the road at Greenville City Park.

The group is working with the Banks Community Foundation, a nonprofit that is serving essentially as a “pass-through” organization to collect tax-deductible charitable donations from individuals and businesses.

Businesses and groups that have already stepped up with donations include Jim’s Market, the Banks Chamber of Commerce, Welcome Home Realty, the Friends of the Banks Public Library and others.

Those interested in donating or those who want more information can contact Susan Cackler at 503-324-1382 or Cleo Howell at 503-680-2472.

Those who wish to make a donation can write a check to Banks Community Foundation with “Rural Ramblers” in the memo line and mail it to Banks Community Foundation, Attn: Rural Ramblers, P.O. Box 355, Banks OR 97106.

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Gales Creek Journal and sister news publications the Banks Post and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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