There is no shortage of outdoor activities in Waco | Waco today


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Cameron Park offers miles of hiking and biking trails. Mountain bikers Brett Swartz (left) and Matt Monroy ride the Cameron Park Ranch course. Photo by Jerry Larson.


One of the few good things about the pandemic is that it has created an even bigger boom in local outdoor activities, according to Jonathan Cook, the city’s director of parks and recreation.

“When COVID-19 hit, we saw a lot of them looking for outdoor activities, and it snowballed with our parks,” Cook said. “Combine that with the growth of the city and the great pride of our community, it leads to more use of the park, especially in our softball registrations and other programs.

“We’re exceeding our pre-pandemic numbers, primarily because Waco is a city that loves its parks and being outdoors, whether it’s biking, hiking or playing sports.”

Several of the city’s walking trails have an extra ride with QR Fit stations that provide workouts via a QR code accessed by a person’s cell phone.

“These stations are a collaborative project with funding from the McLennan County Public Health District, putting up signage in many of our neighborhood parks with walking trails using phone codes to display various workout videos,” Cook explained. “Our data indicates that many people read the signs on phones, taking our parks to the next level as another benefit for the community.”






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The City of Waco has implemented several QR Fit road signs with a QR code that smartphones can unlock to provide workout videos. Photo by Rod Aydelotte.


Plans are also in place for a city-wide main trail program to enhance local hiking and biking and connect key areas and attractions, starting with an East Waco Trail of 2, $ 8 million following three miles of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad.

“We want to provide a gateway to future activities and local transportation by meeting the needs of the community,” adds Cook. “Over the next five years, we will continue to improve our park system, adding one towards China Spring and another elsewhere along with five more park renovations, primarily in southern and western Waco. As the city grows we want to grow with it and give more people access to parks. “

The town has a ‘jewel in the crown’ for outdoor activities, namely Cameron Park on the Brazos River, with its challenging Jacob’s Ladder steps, miles of hiking and biking trails, and terrain. of disc golf.

Greater Waco Athletic Commission executive director Mike Vogelaar said Cameron Park was really special.

“Waco has a competitive advantage over most cities with a downtown river running through the second largest downtown park in the United States behind Central Park in New York City,” he says. “From my perspective, we want to drive local economic impact by making better use of Cameron Park to attract even more people from across the country and around the world. We had competitors from 29 different countries in our recent Ironman alone.

Leg work

Among Cameron Park’s many trail users, runners are near the top, especially the Waco Striders. The non-profit organization, formed in the 1970s, is committed to the health and general well-being of its members and is focused on sharing its love of running with all walks of life and skill levels. fitness.






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A jogger and a cyclist walk past the ‘Wise Elephant’ sculpture, located along the Brazos River, near the entrance to Cameron Park. Photo by Rod Aydelotte.


Its members range from Boston Marathon qualifiers to walkers like President Jason Coffee, who used to run before back and knee problems forced him to slow down. The Striders hold an annual fundraiser to buy bikes for Christmas and provide scholarships to various high school students.

The club also organizes an annual series of trail races, the Huaco Cuatro, made up of four trail races of varying lengths and routes. It meets on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays for group races with route and water indications. It also offers a half marathon training program to prepare for upcoming races as well as monthly mileage tracking.

“We hope to use our passion for running to build lasting friendships, encourage us, improve ourselves and improve our community,” said Coffee. “Our annual membership, which includes all household members, costs just $ 25 and helps us maintain RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) insurance and provide ice, water, cups, etc. . for our group races, as well as any social events we hold. “

You can find more information on wacostriders.org or on Facebook.

The Waco Bicycle Club promotes cycling for all ages and skill levels with weekly outings of varying duration.

Members include organizers of long-distance hikes organized in the region, triathletes, competitive cyclists and supportive family members

Group information is on wacobicycleclub.com.

Mountain biking is also popular on the hills of Cameron Park, with the XTERRA Race Series slated for June 2022. The Cameron Park Ranch is a 66-acre lot that draws mountain bikers from across the state to explore its hills and its ramps.

On the water

The park’s 20 miles of walking and cycling trails as well as river kayaking, paddleboarding and canoeing in the Brazos make it a true outdoor paradise with plenty of possibilities and more on the horizon.

Although Waco Paddle Company and Pura Vida Paddle are both closed this spring, Pura Vida has added a boutique at 3332 Franklin Ave. open from noon to 6 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday. Owner Erin Ward said she plans to open a second paddling site at Woodway Park in 2022.

Another local exercise option is rowing. This is usually associated with Ivy League schools, but there is hope to change that in central Texas.

“I think the next big thing that Waco can be known for is rowing because our river has 5,000 meters of straight water, unheard of in the rowing community, so we need to invest in a shed first. boats to attract more trade and get people to compete here from all over the United States and around the world, “said Vogelaar, the chief of the Greater Waco Sports Commission.” As the rivers freeze in winter in the north, no one can row there, so teams would kill for a chance to compete between December and the end of January and come here for six to 13 days to train. ”






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The Brazos River has been a popular draw for rowers, including this group from China who were training in 2019 for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Photo by Rod Aydelotte.


He also sees the potential of rowing to reach not only elite competitors, but also adults and students in the region, such as Waco Rowing Club manager Matt Scheuritzel.

“Ultimately, our club intends to send a dozen male and female athletes from all local school districts to top American universities through rowing scholarships,” said Scheuritzel. “Our goal is that over the next year or so, the citizens of Waco will watch their own youth rank and compete alongside the Brazos with elite rowers from universities across the country and current and aspiring Olympians.”

It encourages adults with previous rowing experience or anyone interested in learning the sport to come and try it.

“We have memberships available and have ordered top rated equipment and boats from one of the best boat builders in the world, Hudson Boatworks,” he said.

The Waco Rowing Club can be found on Facebook.

Much more

If running, biking, and watersports aren’t enough, there’s always a place for outdoor yoga, horseshoes at Brazos Park East, disc golf at five local courses, and even shooting range. the arch.






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Waco has hosted professional disc golf competitions that have drawn large crowds to Brazos Park East. Photo by Jerry Larson.


The Waco Disc Golf Association recently installed three nine-hole courses at Dewey Park, Amsler Park in McGregor and the new Trailblazer Park on the Cotton Belt Trail. The Brazos Parks East course will host a professional competition from March 11-13. In this event, more than 80,000 pro members will play on 9,000 courses around the world. ESPN will broadcast some of the disc golf, according to course coordinator Joey Harrell.

The Huaco Bowmen Archery Club grounds are located off Park Lake Drive in Cameron Park with 28 field targets and 10 practice targets with ranges from 10 to 80 yards.

Membership costs $ 35 per year for individuals and $ 50 per family. The club offers 3D foam animal shoots for all ages from January to October. The information is available on Facebook.

If you’re looking for a little exercise or a full-scale outdoor workout, there are plenty of options around Waco. ??

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