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Here's where you can get an intense workout outdoors in Macon — for free

You don't need a gym membership to use this fitness equipment.

Eight outdoor exercise machines were installed at Amerson River Park last week. The Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Macon Class of 2017 raised more than $45,000 to create the new workout area, said Spencer Hawkins, overall project manager and director of the Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency.

Each year, a new group of community members is nominated and selected for Leadership Macon, and they attend monthly sessions and work together to complete a community service project.

Community health and poverty were on the minds of the Class of 2017 when they selected their project. Health issues like high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes and obesity are prevalent in Macon-Bibb County, Hawkins said. In addition, nearly 28 percent of the city's population lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"It's tough to stay healthy when it cost $50 a month to go to a gym," Hawkins said.

Amerson River Park, at 2551 North Pierce Drive, is centrally located in the county and near public transportation, he said. The new equipment can be used by anyone who is 14 or older, and everybody should be able to find a piece of equipment that fits their needs, said Wright Woodall, head of the construction committee for the project and senior project manager of Piedmont Construction Group.

"(This project) goes back to the goal of providing an opportunity for everybody to live that kind of healthy-wellness lifestyle," Hawkins said. "We tried to remove as many obstacles as possible to utilizing the equipment. As long as the park is open, the gym equipment is there, free to use, and it's all relatively safe. It's even handicap accessible."

The hearty, durable machines were manufactured by the Greenfields Outdoor Fitness company and installed by the Leadership Macon group, Woodall said. Each piece has instructions and, except for one, can accommodate two to four people. The body-weight equipment offers a good mix of lower and upper body exercises, Spencer and Woodall said.

"There was already a lot of activity here," Woodall said. "It's just enhancing the amenities here as far as being able to do a little more intensive workout, other than just walking, running or biking."

The shaded workout area is equidistant from the parking lots for the playground area and Porter Pavilion, Woodall said. The eight machines and two benches sit on a concrete slab near the intersection of three trails at the park, Hawkins said.

Bike racks, landscaping and a permanent sign will be added in the future. The workout area requires very little maintenance, which the county will handle, he said.

Michael Hanner said he and girlfriend Sarah Isabelle visit Amerson at least twice a week, and they tried out the fitness equipment for the first time Wednesday. They already run, bike, kayak and sun bathe at the park, and now they can add weight-lifting to the list, Isabelle said. She said it was like "adult playground equipment."

"It's good to get Macon active," Isabelle said. "You can tell people are serious about coming (to Amerson). People are here as soon as it opens. People are here until it closes."

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