New outdoor gym now open


Portsmouth has had a complicated relationship with the river. For decades, Portsmouth thrived thanks to river, rails and roads that led to industry settling here. In 1937, it became an obvious threat we walled off. Industry eventually left. Water activities began slowing down. However, in recent years, with revamped River Days bringing more attention to water sports and river activities, the City of Portsmouth examining development options, and now Main Street Portsmouth and Scioto Foundation, the river is being looked at as a major resource again.

The most recent step towards a revamped river comes in the form of a new park addition to York, with 8 new exercise equipment pieces being added to the site.

“The idea is that we have this beautiful river with the rolling foothills of Appalachia that people love watching and being around, but not much to do,” Main Street Portsmouth Executive Director Joseph Pratt said. “With this new expansion, levee-runners could detour and add other elements to their workout, parents can let their kids play on the playground, or friends could just meet up and enjoy the equipment and talk while barges go by and the wind rolls off the river. We think it is a wonderful new addition to downtown.”

This kind of park isn’t common for the area and Pratt says that was also part of the plan.

“Ultimately, Main Street is looking at several large projects on the riverfront that we want to accomplish. Some of these stem from a years-old riverfront development plan established by the America’s Best Communities competition we were in. This was an obvious first, however, because of its uniqueness and newness. We don’t really have anything like this in the region.”

Pratt also commented on the development of outdoors recreation being a big draw.

“Tracy Shearer, Mayor Sean Dunne, and all three commissioners are all doing a lot to bring outdoor recreation alive, especially when we look at the river. When we look at everyone playing so well together, and taking different pieces of the puzzle, it just means we are that much more guaranteed to win in the end. I really respect what Tracy and the rest are accomplishing and it is an honor to be amongst them.”

The equipment was planned by Pratt and local gym owner Dale King, who focuses on a lot of outdoor training.

“The combination of sweat and sunshine is the most powerful method to increase physical fitness, strengthen immunity and improve mental health,” King said. “The equipment and location are perfect for CrossFit, Yoga, running/walking, or meditation. Grateful for Main Street Portsmouth for investing the health of our community.”

In 2020, The Scioto Foundation Board of Governors awarded $60,000 dollars to Main Street Portsmouth for its Operation Riverfront Shapeup. This project is a recipient of Scioto Foundation’s Rethinking Downtown Portsmouth Grant Initiative.

“The Mainstreet Portsmouth project, “Operation Riverfront Shapeup” is an excellent example of putting ideas into action,” Scioto Foundation Executive Director Kim Cutlip said. “Based upon planning from the ABC project, several years ago, this project is now reality due to the perseverance of Joseph Pratt and Mainstreet Portsmouth to make it happen. We at the Scioto Foundation are pleased to support the project. Congratulations to all!”

Since 2019, the Scioto Foundation Board of Governors has awarded over $225,000 in grant dollars from its Rethinking Downtown Portsmouth Grant Initiative. This grant initiative was developed to attract additional investment in the downtown Portsmouth area, while also building momentum for continued community collaboration.

“Rethinking Downtown Portsmouth” began with a community strategic planning session in April 2019 to create a vision for downtown Portsmouth. Key to the summit was the potential for organizations to apply for grants at its conclusion based upon important downtown issues,” Cutlip said. “Rethinking Downtown Portsmouth had two funding priorities, direct projects, and planning/feasibility studies. Since 2019 the Scioto Foundation has funded 4 projects for a total of $250,000 and two planning projects in the amount of $62,500 for a grand total of $312,500. The 2023 request for proposal will be issued in late spring with details about future funding opportunities.”

For more information about the Rethinking Downtown Portsmouth Grant Initiative, please contact the Scioto Foundation during office hours by calling (740)354-4612.

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