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Public health improved through open access to exercise facilities

Rector Sunniva Whittaker opened a new all-activity park on Campus Kristiansand on 10 October 2019. Everyone is very welcome to use the facilities.

Rector Sunniva Whittaker (left) opened the activity park together with the leader of STA, the student organisation in Agder, Benedicte Nordlie

Text and photo: Kristina Hoel, Arne Martin Larsen, Magnus Nødland Skogedal.

In the woods and fields between Gimlebanen, the Natural Museum and the university buildings at Campus Kristiansand, an all-activity park has been created, named UiA-parken. Here you can find jogging tracks, street basketball and volleyball courts, an obstacle course, fitness facilities, an outdoor teaching area as well as recreational areas. 

"This area was hardly used before, and it was not easily accessible due to scrubs and stems. Now bushes and trees have been cleared, the area has been opened up and walking trails have been created that go down to Gimle Gård and the Natural Museum.  We have been able to combine the long-standing dreams and wishes of the athletic society with the objectives of University City Kristiansand.  The park accommodates for recreational use, public health and great moments", said rector Whittaker during the opening.

The UiA Park will help to increase the activity in the area and reduce the perceived distance between the university and the city. The use of the activity grounds is not only aimed at students, the area should also contribute to encouraging physical activity for the city’s population, drawing them closer towards the university.

"Research shows that physical activity increases when such areas are created , and made available for general use. The park will contribute to a wider offer of facilities and likely a more dynamic atmosphere on campus", says Sveinung Berntsen Stølevik, professor and head of the Department of Sports Science and Physical Education.

"We know that physical activity increases the learning ability, therefore not only our sports students have the opportunity to benefit from these facilities. We can moreover use the area for observation practice and assignments for sports students and teacher students", says Berntsen Stølevik.

Bootcamp feeling

While the park´s official opening was on 10 October, it already has been open for public for several months. Kristin Kjøde (23) is teacher student at UiA and she took Johan Thorsen (22) with her through the obstacle course.

Kristin Kjøde og Johan Thorsen i aktivitetsparken, foto

Kristin Kjøde and Johan Thorsen have just finished the obstacle course.

"This is the first time we tried the obstacle course. We just happened to pass by and figured it would be fun to give it a go", says Kjøde.

"It is a little like being in a movie, you get this boot camp feeling while you crawl underneath ropes and help one another over the higher obstacles. I thought it was awesome. The track also gives you a good workout. It is physically demanding and a lot of fun. And if you really want a proper workout you can always go for an extra round on the fitness equipment that is right besides", says Thorsen.

A boost for the area

The closest neighbour of the all-activity park is Kristiansand Katedralskole Gimle (KKG). At the outdoor teaching area, we find two groups of KKG pupils who use their gymnastic classes to learn about outdoor activity, and on how to make a campfire. Sports teachers Øystein Sylta and Alf Egil Svela show how to build a campfire before they start a competition on who will be first to manage to light their campfire. 

Elever fra KKG i friluftsanlegget, foto

Pupils from KKG enjoy outdoor recreation and learn how to make a fire in their PE lesson at the UiA-park.

"The facilities in this park are accommodating and this is very positive. This has given us at KKG a boost as well. We use the area both for regular pupil gymnastic classes as well as for pupils who have chosen top-athletics and recreational sports as a programme subject."

He points out the importance of the park's compact set-up with a jogging track that zigzags around and in between the facilities.

Street basketball and sand volleyball courts are now also part of the park area.

Street basketball and sand volleyball courts are now also part of the park area.

"For me as a teacher this means that I can work with several groups of pupils at different facilities at the same time. One group can be busy with the fitness equipment while another is at the obstacle course. Since the lay-out of the jogging track is so easy to supervise it is also possible to have pupils there of different skill level", says Sylta.

Cooperation

The project has consisted of representatives from UiA, Kristiansand municipality, the Student Association of Agder, the Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property and Vest-Agder county council. Each of the involved has participated in various ways. Kristiansand municipality has contributed with detail planning and site preparation. The Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property has prepared and developed trails and park areas, and UiA has funded the work on the site and been responsible for planning and the purchase of equipment. Solar panel lamp posts light up the facility at night.

Lampe, foto

The facility is lit by solar powered lights.

“Here we have achieved a good outcome from good cooperation. The UiA-park is a great example of what you can do when everyone contributes with their unique strengths”, says Eli Skaranger, UiA’s coordinator for the University Town Kristiansand.