New England News
6:40 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

North Adams Regional Hospital Adds Walking Trails

The entrance to the new walking trails at North Adams Regional Hospital.
Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC
A resting area along the trail.
Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC

Staff, patients, and visitors at North Adams Regional Hospital will now have a relaxing escape on the premises.

The idea behind creating walking trails was to improve health and wellness among patients, staff, and visitors. The two trails, one a quarter-mile and the other nearly a half-mile, are part of the hospital’s Pathways to Health Project. Former hospital employee and now project manager Jennifer Munoz says the hospital has been considering the walking paths for about 10 years.

“Hospitals are much more interested recently in all kinds of green practices, " Munoz said. "From getting better food, local food and organic foods into the cafeteria, to having opportunities for employees and patrons to exercise.”

Similar trails can be found at medical centers across the U.S. including ones in the Northeast like Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire along with Tyrone Hospital and Memorial Hospital in Pennsylvania. Munoz says many hospitals don’t have the land to build pathways and that North Adams Regional Hospital is ahead of the trend locally. Laurie Therrien is the hospital’s Patient Account Manager. After walking the trails, she says it will be a nice way to break up the day, but says they will be even more of an asset for those people who are at the hospital under more trying circumstances.

“Sometimes when you’re waiting for a loved one who’s in a surgical procedure it can be a few hours," Therrien said. " So I think there’s nothing nicer than to just come out and be among nature and just walk for a few minutes. This is a great thing.”

Munoz says the trails are also available for patients and may help their recovery efforts.

“People who are rehabbing and have established enough balance, enough fitness and capability to come out and practicing walking in nature on these trails instead of always walking on a treadmill or always walking on pavement," said Munoz.

The winding trails take you around boulders, over bridges, and offer places to sit and relax. Brandon Ansley is a security and maintenance worker at the hospital. Along with nine other staff members, he did the hands-on work to make the trails a reality.

“The thought process was more along the lines of not to have straight lines, to make it feel like an actual hiking trail instead of just walking a regular loop," said Ansley."

And what kind of work did that require? His coworker Ed Luczynski has the answer.

"A lot of walking and a lot of cleaning," said Luczynski.

The hospital plans to add picnic tables, garden beds and fruit trees to the current walkways with the hope of blazing another, more challenging trail. Munoz says the project is also partnering with local farmers to have fresh eggs and produce delivered to the hospital for staff. It also hosts a farmers market once a month in the hospital cafeteria for patients and visitors.

“When we’re able to move forward with our reduction of our solid waste stream that comes out of our cafeteria kitchen, we actually have a pig farmer in Williamstown is willing to connect with us and pick up scraps," Munoz said. "Help us to reduce our solid waste stream, but also we can support a local business and make sure the stuff is recycled appropriately into a pork product and not just into a landfill.”

The project was made possible through an undisclosed donation from Ellen Bernstein, a member of the Board of Trustees of Northern Berkshire Healthcare.