Project manager Jennifer Munoz, right, greets hospital staff entering the trail system on Friday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Visitors and staff at North Adams Regional Hospital can now stretch their legs in the great outdoors.
Northern Berkshire Healthcare has opened two walking trails in the woods behind the hospital and Ambulatory Care Center. The trails — a one-quarter mile loop and a nearly half-mile loop — wind along small hillside within sight of the facility.
Northern Berkshire Healthcare Trustee Ellen Bernstein of Williamstown donated the funds to clear the paths and build four bridges over ditches and wet areas. NBH President and CEO Tim Jones presented her with a walking stick on Friday before setting out with her on the path with about two dozen employees.
"Through the generosity of Ellen it really is supporting our vision for the future in the which is to be a vital partner in creating a healthy community," said Jones. "This is one of the first things that is tangible for the community to see."
The goal is to get people out of the building and walking when possible, such as during breaks or while waiting for a loved one to have a procedure. Project manager Jennifer Munoz said it was part of the hospital's goal to develop "a culture of health and wellness for employees as well as patrons."
The trails are open to the public; individuals can walk a couple miles up and down the mild incline by doing several loops.
It took the efforts of 10 employees in the facilities division about six weeks working part time to construct the bridges and clear the trails, said Director of Facilities Darryl Smith. The "brute work" of clearing was mostly done by new employees Ed Luczynski and Brandon Ansley.
The paths can support two across but while cleared, they are still woodland trails with rocks and roots. Appropriate footwear is recommended. Green ribbons mark the shorter, more level trail and orange ribbons the longer trail.
The hospital plans on adding raised garden beds near the entrance (next to the helipad) next year, along with planting fruit trees on the campus, and possibly upgrading the signage along the paths. The hospital has also been sponsoring mini-farmer's markets and opportunities for employees to order through Berkshire Organics.
All the activities are part of the hospital's new "Greensters" team, which is also spearheading ways to reduce food waste.
The land was donated when the hospital opened in 1885.
Bernstein said she made the trails possible out of concern for the health of the community.
"It makes me sad to see so many people who don't get exercise," she said. "Who really could reverse their own health problems by adopting a healthy lifestyle."
The donation came from a family foundation created by her father, an enthusiastic walker.
"He went walking very night after dinner as long as it was not icy and horrible out," she said. "He went out after every meal and took a long walk."
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