NORTH ADAMS -- Northern Berkshire Healthcare has taken one of its first steps to reach its goal of creating a healthier community as officials and employees gathered to celebrate the opening of a new walking trail on the North Adams Regional Hospital campus on Friday.
"First, we must say thanks to Ellen [Bernstein], who generously donated the funds to help us see our vision -- of being a vital partner in creating a healthy community within the community -- come to life in many ways," NBH President Tim Jones said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. "This trail, besides offering a peaceful place to escape for a few minutes, is also a symbol of how health care providers are thinking differently today."
Located next to the helicopter pad at North Adams Regional Hospital, the trail offers two walking loops of varying length and difficulty through the wooded land north of the Ambulatory Care Center, part of the original parcel donated to the hospital when it first opened in 1885.
"The trail is made up of a a loop within a loop," Jennifer Munoz, who coordinated the project for NBH said. "The trails start and end at the same location, and run concurrently in the beginning and in the end run."
The trails are each marked with fluorescent ribbons. The shorter trail, marked with green ribbons, is a quarter-of-a-mile long and takes about six minutes to complete. The longer trail, which is more hilly and nearly a half-of-a-mile long, is marked with orange ribbons and takes about 10 minutes to complete.
Construction of the trail was completed by the hospital's facilities department. A 10-member crew cleared the trail and built four wooden bridges for the paths, on a part-time basis over the six week period.
"One of the reasons I donated the money is because it makes me sad to see so many people [in the community] who don't get enough exercise and who really could reverse their own health problems by adopting a healthier lifestyle," Bernstein, a member of the NBH board of trustees and former publisher of The Advocate, said. "If also seemed good for the staff and all the people who come up here to wait for patients having day surgery and have nothing to do but watch TV, which isn't healthy at all."
In the coming year, plans for the trail include the addition of raised garden beds near the entrance and the planting of fruit trees near the trail and on other parts of the campus. Harvests from the gardens and fruit trees will be made available to employees for free.
The walking trail is the first part of the hospital's new "Pathways to Health Project," a program designed to improve the wellness of its employees and visitors. Other initiatives include mini farmers' markets held in the hospital cafeteria for employees, a weekly opportunity for employees to organic produce from Berkshire Organics and a plan to remove food waste from the hospital's solid waste stream by making arrangements with a local pig farmer to pick up large-volume kitchen scraps.