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There's a new track in town

The mile-long grass track loops its way through the artworks in the Anderson Center's sculpture garden. (Republican Eagle photo by Sarah Gorvin)1 / 3
Tower View Alternative Learning Center teacher Ben Slagle demonstrates how to use the new track's agility ladder. (Republican Eagle photo by Sarah Gorvin)2 / 3
Wooden markers are situated around the one-mile grass track. They keep people on the right path and mark distance. The community interactions class made all of the markers, as well as the exercise equipment. (Republican Eagle photo by Sarah Gorvin)3 / 3

The Anderson Center already boasts a long list of attractions -- including artist studios, art gallery space, a landmark water tower, a sculpture garden and a fully restored barn and silo -- that draw people to the historical site on the edge of Red Wing.

Now, thanks to Tower View Alternative Center's community interactions class, there will be one more: a mile-long grass track with five exercise stations along the way. The track officially opened to the public May 31.

"The whole idea of the class was to address (a problem)," said teacher Maria Gallaradojohnson, who co-taught the class with Ben Slagle.

At the beginning of the school year, she and Slagle gave the students a problem to solve.

"We said ... our school doesn't have phys ed equipment," she said. "This is the problem we want you to address."

Throughout the year, the class -- which had an enrollment of about a half-dozen students -- worked to design the track, find ways to fund it and ultimately build the track signs, markers and exercise equipment.

"The students set up a whole series of steps that they had to follow in getting the project off the ground and getting the project funded and then making the exercise course a reality," Anderson Center Director Robert Hedin said. "They did an absolutely perfect job."

To raise money, students worked shifts at the coffee shop they set up in the Anderson Center, selling drinks to students between classes. They also worked on their public speaking skills by presenting the track proposal to area businesses and asking for donations.

By the end of the year, they had raised more than their goal of $5,000, Gallardojohnson said.

The school year's second semester was dedicated to building the track markers and the five exercise stations, which are a shuttle run, agility ladder, rope climb, a pull-up and dip bar and plyometric boxes.

Gallardojohnson said the late spring stalled the stations' installation and some are still works in progress. They should be finished in coming weeks.

The completed natural grass track weaves its way through the more than 30 sculptures in the garden. Each sixteenth of a mile is marked with a wooden post that shows the distance so far and points runners in the right direction.

"It fits perfectly into the character of the sculpture garden," Hedin said. "I think it will bring more people."

"It gives exposure to the Anderson Center and it gives the community another outlet for exercise," Slagle added.

As for track maintenance, the Anderson Center's crew was already cutting the grass, so that will continue. And the exercise stations were designed to withstand weather and last for years without significant upkeep, Slagle said.

"I think it's a wonderful addition to the Anderson Center," Hedin said. "The students ... did an absolutely magnificent job."

And, the teachers said, the students learned new skills -- such as woodworking and public speaking -- and that they do have the ability to positively impact Red Wing.

"I think they didn't get it until the end that what they did was very big and very permanent," Gallardojohnson said. "From the beginning to the end, this is something that will impact their community."

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.