Trail users use the new exercise equipment on the east end of the boardwalk. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

Five pieces of equipment – high and low sit-up benches, push-up bars, pull-up bars and parallel bars – give runners, walkers and cyclists a reason to stop as they make their way along the Butler Trail around Lady Bird Lake.

I dropped by the newly equipped area last Friday morning to meet Susan Rankin, executive director of The Trail Foundation, which funded the improvements.

As we sat and chatted, a handful of people got in a workout in the new space. One, Miguel Vilchis, said he uses the station before heading out on his regular run around the lake.

A few others paused just to see if they could figure out how to use the bars, which brought a smile to Rankin’s face. The bars and benches seemed to be luring in people who would never head to a gym.

Michael Vilchis does pullups before heading out for a run. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

“We are excited about the way that the boardwalk is already attracting people from all walks of life and we think that this new exercise area will add a whole dimension of fitness use,” she wrote my later in an email.

The equipment is arranged on a springy surface in a semi-circular space that overlooks the lake. Exercisers can watch kayakers paddle by as they knock out their routines.

The area includes five pieces of exercise equipment mounted on a rubberized surface. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

The exercise station, including the equipment, the rubberized surface, bricks and installation, cost $48,616. Plantings of 17 Mexican sycamore trees, irrigation, grates around the trees, a year of landscape maintenance and a butterfly garden (coming in March), added $31,802.

Money for the project came from donations to The Trail Foundation from Whataburger, Lynne Dobson and Greg Wooldridge, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

So what’s next for the trail?

The Trail Foundation officials are busy raising money for their next big project – a new trail bridge on the north side of the river beneath Congress Avenue. Designing is under way now, with permitting and construction planned for this fall. The new bridge will replace the aging existing structure, making it wider and safer so it can handle the trail’s increased usage.

Also on tap?

This fall crews will plant new shade trees to fill in sunny spots just east of the boardwalk. They’ll replace some failing retaining walls, starting with those just west of Lou Neff Point.

They’ll also install six interpretive signs, now in the designing phase, on the boardwalk observation areas. The signs will explain the area’s birds, geology, trees, watersheds and animals, plus provide information about Blunn Creek.

The Trail Foundation will also expand its conservation work, planting more saplings, pruning older trees and assessing the health of the greenspace along the trail and its 199 acres.

Get out there and enjoy the trail. To donate to the non-profit organization, go here