SHAKER RECREATION :
THORNTON PAR K
Photo courtesy of Shaker Recreation
SHAKER RECREATION: THORNTON PARK
3301 Warrensville Center Road
WWW.SHAKER.LIFE | FALL 2018 49
One day, Shaker Heights may be known
for more than its schools and distinguished homes.
If Recreation Department Director Alexandria Nichols
has any say in the matter, the City also soon will be
renowned for its wide array of fitness offerings.
Indeed, Nichols takes the department’s motto as more
than just a tagline. To her, “Be Active. Stay Healthy. Have
Fun” is practically a mission statement.
“We believe very strongly in finding ways to bring
people together,” Nichols says. “Our goal is to keep our
community healthy and active. We want people to see their
options and know all the amenities.”
It’s tougher than it sounds, especially in an older, fully
developed city like Shaker Heights, where land is scarce.
However, Thornton Park squeezes a lot into its space: a pool
and ice rink as well as a basketball court, volleyball court,
tennis courts, batting cages, a skatepark, and a sledding hill.
Shaker recreation offerings City-wide are not just for
residents. People who are employed in the City can avail
themselves of facilities and classes at resident prices.
“We see a lot of competition, and competition is a big
challenge,” Nichols says. Shaker’s response? Think smaller.
Rather than attempt to compete with nearby big-box
gyms and well-equipped community centers, the City has
begun offering “pop up” courses: yoga and other exercise
classes, in parks and other spaces, taught by residents.
During summer, they’re even free.
The idea, Nichols says, is to meet people where
they are, to get residents and people employed in the
City into their parks, and provide a fitness outlet free of
complication and obligation.
“There are a lot of people trying to find ways to be
healthy, but who don’t want a commitment or something
difficult,” she says. “Not everyone wants a gym membership
in order to go to a fitness class.”
The City also has done its part to make outdoor exercise inviting. At Sussex Park, for
instance, a group of seniors meets regularly to play pickleball on four specialized courts. At
Southerly Park, the City recently turned an old fitness trail into an open-air gym complete
with a stationary bike, rowing machine, and plyometric boxes used for jumping exercises.
“We think it’s really cool,” says Nichols of the Southerly Park facility. “I think we’ve
tried to be more aligned with fitness trends we’ve seen out there.”
All of this, of course, is in addition to standard group exercise classes offered yearround
through the Recreation Department.
For seniors, there are swimming, and arthritis-specific exercise classes. Others can
begin their fitness journey with “Health Seekers” and move on to boot camp, aerobic
dancing, martial arts, or dancing.
The objectives are diverse, too. Nichols
and her staff don’t just want to help people
stay in shape. They also want to foster a
sense of community through exercise.
“We’ve really tried to find new fitness
opportunities for our residents and
people who work here,” Nichols says. “We
encourage people to get in shape and get to
know their neighbors.”