Owners Sara and Shane May at their Cottage Grove gym.

CRESWELL – The Emerald Fitness Club in Creswell is a local institution. Starting on Wednesday, Nov. 24 at 8 p.m., it becomes the latest local institution to have bitten the dust. 

The good news, if you happen to be an EFC member, is that all of the equipment is being moved to the 24-hour Cottage Grove location. That club will be closed Nov. 26-29 for remodeling, renovation and expansion. 

“We were told the building was being knocked down, and we were asked to vacate, so we’re just doing what we were told and getting out,” Emerald Fitness owner Shane May said. 

“This building has been falling apart for 15 years and nobody has put any money into it. There’s about eight buckets upstairs from all the water leaks. I can’t imagine how much water damage is up there.” 

For many club members, making the switch to Cottage Grove is no big deal. Others, like 90-year-old Peggy Heltman, aren’t taking the news too well. 

“This has kept me healthy and alive and moving, that’s why I’m really grieving because they’re moving it,” Heltman said while riding a stationary bike. “I don’t look 90, I don’t act 90, and I don’t walk 90, and it’s because of this building.” 

"Miss" Peggy Heltman, 90, rides an exercise bike. PHOTO/RON HARTMAN

She’s not so keen on the idea of driving to Cottage Grove every day.

“I don’t think so, but I’ll wait and see,” said Heltman, a 25-year gym member. “One of the things this place provides is socializing. I’m really grieving.”

Heltman, who retired only a couple of years ago as a marriage and family therapist, says it’s wishful thinking to believe that someone else will build a health club in Creswell that’s up to snuff with Emerald Fitness. 

“To have a place where kids can come and exercise, and grannies like me can exercise and stay fit … this is ideal and it was ideal from the beginning. And they can’t replace this with anything.”

Carol Clark prefers to look at the move a little more philosophically.

“I’m upset in one respect but on the other hand, maybe it’s time for a change,” said Clark, who left the San Fernando Valley in 1969 to move to Cottage Grove. “After getting past the initial shock, it will be easier when I’m no longer involved here. I can still go to the Cottage Grove site, they’re going to start exercise classes there, too.” 

For nearly her entire 25-year membership, Clark has been teaching swim classes. “Shane jokingly says that I come with the building,” Clark said, “because I’ve been through so many managements.”

Clark would rather not reveal her age.

“A lot of my students don’t know how old I am, and I don’t care that they know,” she said. 

“Some of the ladies are planning to go to Cottage Grove, it’s not that far,” said Clark, a former teacher (first grade/special ed). “I’m more worried about them than about me. And Shane is the same way, we don’t want people to stop working out.”

“When we got the news, I was talking to some people on a treadmill who said they had been members since this place opened in 1979,” Shane May said. “The mother worked at the restaurant and both kids worked at the restaurant, and I guess her husband did some landscaping here. They were only 6 minutes away, so adding that extra 8-10 minutes is tough, but pretty soon it just becomes a new routine.

“Our motto is, ‘Don’t Stop Moving,’ and one of the things we’re doing in January is low-impact senior classes to entice those guys to keep moving, even if they come down and sit in a circle and talk, like some of them do. So a lot of our classes will be dedicated to that age bracket.”

While May said he was told the building – which for many years was a “hotspot” in Creswell with its Friday night seafood buffets, concerts, weddings, private parties and special events – would be demolished, apparently there are no such plans in the immediate future, as none of the other tenants in the building are being evicted. 

Laine Wortman, Emerald Valley Golf & Resort General Manager, confirmed that the building will stay intact and that his company, Pliska Golf Inc, is looking into other options before moving forward.